Wednesday, July 15, 2009

FairPoint Coming Under Closer Scrutiny

Is it the beginning of the end for FairPoint Communications in northern New England?

Vermont's Department of Public Service is asking for an investigation because FairPoint has been unable to correct problems with customer service and billing issues. The issue is not unique to Vermont as New Hampshire and Maine have also suffered ongoing problems with the beleaguered telecommunications company.

Over the objections of consumer advocacy groups and numerous residents in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, FairPoint Communications bought the wireline assets of Verizon in northern New England. Many, including yours truly, were against the sale because it was a matter of a small rural telephone company with a spotty track record taking on the assets (and problems) of a much larger competitor and paying far too much money for them.

Since the changeover from Verizon's to Fairpoint's system at the beginning of this year, the number of complaints has skyrocketed and the slow bleeding off of wireline customers has turned into a hemorrhage, with many customers dumping their FairPoint landlines in favor of cell phones or VoIP digital phone service from their local cable companies.

FairPoint has tried to answer their critics with campaign ads, while adding an executive position created to solve the ongoing problems with customer service.

That's all well and good, but TV ads and the addition of yet another vice president in and of themselves do not solve the problems. If FairPoint doesn't get its act together it can count on at least one state – Vermont – to invalidate its license to conduct business there, meaning they would no longer be allowed to provide telephone service within Vermont.

This is no surprise.

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