HALLOWELL, Maine — FairPoint Communications has agreed to spend $185,000 to upgrade landline telephone systems in three towns in order to settle regulators’ complaints that the company’s landline service quality has fallen short.
FairPoint faced service quality penalties dating back to 2014, when it said a 131-day strike exacerbated those problems, including how quickly it could respond to outage reports.
The proposed settlement filed Thursday would resolve complaints from the Maine Public Utilities Commission related to those missed service quality benchmarks from the end of 2014 through early 2016.
The settlement negotiated by the company and the Office of the Public Advocate calls for FairPoint to invest $185,000 in specific landline improvements in Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor and the Washington County town of Perry.
The company said that it picked those projects based on the rate of network problems reported in those areas and because there was no previously scheduled improvements before Dec. 31, 2019. The settlement requires the company to make improvements in those areas before the end of 2018.
If FairPoint misses that deadline, it’s required to invest another $15,000 in a new project to improve landline service.
Regulatory staff in September recommended FairPoint pay a $500,000 fine for missing its service quality benchmarks, but the company successfully appealed the commission’s issuance of that report and submitted its own testimony to argue against the penalties.
The penalties dealt only with the company’s remaining regulated landline service, called provider of last resort service. In areas where FairPoint is the provider of last resort, it’s required to connect any customer who requests basic landline service.
Lawmakers last year allowed FairPoint to gradually dial back the number of communities where it is the provider of last resort, as long as customers in those areas have sufficient choices between telecommunications providers.
The change also lightened the service quality requirements for FairPoint’s regulated landline service, as the company argued the previous metrics were unattainable. Those metrics include measures such as the number of problems customers reported per 100 lines and the number of network problems unresolved in 24 hours.
FairPoint spokeswoman Angelynne Beaudry said the company is “pleased to have reached a mutually agreeable settlement” and that the company has met the new service quality standards lawmakers put into place last year.