With Time Warner Cable poised to take over Adelphia’s contract in Standish, many residents want to know if the transfer will give them more choice in phone service.

Presently, Standish’s telephone options are limited at best with their carrier, Fairpoint New England. But many residents have seen the Time Warner commercials on TV, advertising digital phone service, and are wondering when it is coming to Standish.

Roland Bois, of Arthur Drive, is working to get some answers. He says he doesn’t necessarily want digital phone service himself but he feels people should have a choice. Bois knows many people are comfortable with Fairpoint’s service and wouldn’t want to change. But others, looking for convenience or better prices, are forced to remain with this one carrier or switch entirely to cell phones.

“My friend wanted to sign up with Vonage,” Bois said. “He applied online, but when he gave his phone number, they shut him out.”

That’s because smaller phone companies like Fairpoint aren’t set up to support these services. As a result, residents who have Fairpoint phone service cannot currently sign up for alternatives such as digital or Internet phone services – services that could save them money.

Frustrated at what Bois says is Fairpoint’s “hammerlock” on Standish residents, he contacted Rep. Gary Moore, R-Standish, to try to get some answers.

After some preliminary investigation, Moore encouraged Bois to pursue filing a 10-person complaint with the Public Utilities Commission.

But now, with the complaint ready to file, Bois has been advised by William Black, a lawyer with Maine’s Public Advocates Office, to hold off on the complaint because Time Warner was working on the problem.

According to Melinda Poore, vice president of government and public affairs for Time Warner, the company is in the process of working out a business arrangement with Fairpoint.

“Once we get the initial business agreement in place with the local phone company, we should be able to provide digital phone service within a year,” Poore said.

Although she doesn’t know when an agreement might be finalized, Pamela Joy, Fairpoint New England’s director of business marketing, confirmed that discussions are taking place between the two companies to get digital phone service for the three exchanges Fairpoint supports in Standish.

“This is something Time Warner has to make a business decision about and Fairpoint is very willing to work with them,” Joy said.

Time Warner has not closed the deal to acquire Adelphia in Maine. The closing will happen sometime around the end of May or beginning of June, Poore said. First, the sale has to go to through the Federal Communications Commission and then through the bankruptcy court.

Moore met last week with Kurt Adams, of the Public Utilities Commission, who also advised waiting to submit the 10-person complaint. Adams told Moore that if Time Warner could not work out an agreement with Fairpoint that the cable company could go directly to the commission, which would allow them to “pierce the rural exemption clause.”

Local resident Tony Vigue has been the Standish representative to Saco River Cable Committee, a volunteer group that negotiates cable service for Standish, Buxton, Hollis, Limerick, Limington and Waterboro. Vigue says there needs to be a physical “connection point” between Time Warner and Fairpoint. Because Fairpoint is a small phone company, it is protected by a statute under the Telecommunications Act.

But Bois has a problem with that. Although he said he could understand trying to protect smaller companies, he feels Fairpoint no longer falls into that category.

“This is no longer that small a telephone company,” he said. “I think they’re getting more and more powerful. We’re all fed up with the rule of the iron fist.”


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