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FairPoint Communications Selling For $1.5 Billion

fairpoint-communications-ap-file-wellenbach.jpg
Pat Wellenbach
/
AP/File
FairPoint Communications is selling for $1.5 billion to Illinois-based Consolidated Communications in a deal announced Monday.

FairPoint Communications is being sold. Consolidated Communications, based in Matoon, Illinois, is planning pay about $1.5 billion for the company that provides landline and internet service in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Jim Porter is the director of the telecommunications and connectivity division at the Vermont Department of Public Service.

He said the customer base for FairPoint’s service is a lot smaller than it was in late 2007.

“They're down to roughly one-third of the residential customers they had the day they began operating in Vermont, and that is to some extent a nationwide trend,” Porter said Monday.

Porter said that in addition to a shrinking market for landline phone service nationally, competition for voice service from Comcast also cut into FairPoint's business.

FairPoint has had issues in the past with service quality and is currently before the Vermont Public Service Board due to problems with the Enhanced 911 system. The new company will have to get approval from state regulators at the board before operating in Vermont.

Porter said the company has to meet state standards for “management experience, financial soundness, technical competence, and ... sufficient service quality. So we’ll look at all of those things before the Public Service Board.”

FairPoint has trimmed both its workforce and benefits for unionized workers in recent years in order to improve its financial picture. Porter said it’s “been public that the FairPoint shareholders have been wanting a sale for some time,” but that state officials didn’t learn about the deal until Monday morning.

In a press release announcing the merger, Consolidated Communications said that the new combined company will have more than 35,000 miles of fiber lines, which transmit high-speed internet, across 24 states. The majority of that fiber – about 21,000 miles – is within FairPoint’s existing network.

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