FairPoint reports progress in northern New England

Posted July 10, 2009, at 7:57 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Troubled phone company FairPoint Communications says it has fixed some billing and customer service problems in northern New England in recent months but has more to do in some other areas.

In a report to utility regulators in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont provided to The Associated Press on Friday, FairPoint said one improvement was cutting the waiting time for calls to its repair center.

In March, a quarter of the callers hung up before getting through, and the average waiting time was eight minutes. The company said that hang-ups dropped to less than 6 percent in June and that waiting time was less than two minutes.

Its consumer call center also has seen improvement, with the report stating that fewer than 3 percent of its calls were abandoned, compared with 59 percent in March. The average wait time went down to 45 seconds from 15 minutes.

Order flow and billing have improved, and the backlog in late pending orders has lessened, down to about 4,000 from a high of about 14,000 in April.

“Our systems performance has seen major improvements since March, and has been a significant contributor to the progress we have made,” the company said in its report. “There is, however, more that needs to be done in this area. The improved performance of our systems will be a major priority of the company.”

FairPoint, based in Charlotte, N.C., owns and operates 32 phone companies in 18 states, with a total of 1.7 million lines. Most of them are in northern New England, where last year it bought Verizon’s assets in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont for $2.3 billion.

Since taking total control of the Verizon system last winter, FairPoint has been plagued by customer service, billing and other operational problems.

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