Telco pledges $43 million for rural DSL

Rural telco Fairpoint Communications has pledged to invest almost $43 million to outfit rural telecom customers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont with DSL--if the Federal Communications Commission and regulators in all three states approve FairPoint's bid to merge its operation with rural access lines spun off from Verizon in those states. This deal, worth more than $2 billion, was announced last January.

Problem is, there's apparent opposition from some utilities experts and consumer advocates who are concerned about the ability of FairPoint, which is the 17th largest telco in the nation, to handle the bigger responsibilities this deal entails.

It seems like rural customers are still in a bind: Large ILECs like Verizon, pressed to keep pace with Wall Street expectations, have been looking for ways to get rid of rural lines for years. Small rural telcos want the lines, but can their operations handle getting much bigger much faster, and upgrading and maintaining service for so many new customers? Broadband promises to grease the wheels for any kind of deal to be approved, so it's no surprise to see a spending plan attached to these types of rural spin-off/mergers. But, the new rural owner must have the financial and operational ability to follow through; otherwise the deal just adds to the other empty broadband promises already made to rural America.

For more:
- Maine's Bangor Daily News has more about the broadband pledge
- here's a report about opposition to the deal in Vermont's Seven Days alternative weekly