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1/24/2008
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FairPoint Clears Hurdle In Verizon-New England Deal

The telecom said it will provide additional conditions to the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission to meet public concerns.

FairPoint Communications reported Thursday that an agreement has been reached between itself, Verizon, and the staff of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission on the proposed transfer of Verizon assets to FairPoint.

At the same time, the Communications Workers of America, which has been fighting Verizon's proposal to transfer $2.72 billion in assets to FairPoint, has called for the establishment of an independent company to operate the $2.72 billion in assets proposed for transfer in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont.

In hailing the New Hampshire agreement, FairPoint said it has committed to additional conditions in the Granite State regarding capital expenditures, broadband expansion, network and service quality improvement plans, and assurances of financial viability.

Announced more than a year ago, the Verizon-to-FairPoint asset transfer has been bogged down by the necessity to gain approval from regulatory agencies in the three states.

Gene Johnson, chairman and CEO of FairPoint, said he is relieved the process has gotten this far. "We are pleased at the thoughtful approach by the staff of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission and believe this agreement appropriately addresses important public interest issues in the state," he said in a statement.

The CWA has contested the transfer, maintaining that FairPoint has a "shaky" financial model and would have difficulty serving the Northern New England region with advanced high technology including widespread broadband deployment.

In recent weeks, regulators in Maine and Vermont have approved the transfer, but additional approvals are still needed before a final deal can be sealed. Verizon has been selling off older assets to fund newer advanced technologies such as broadband and wireless infrastructure.

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