The ongoing saga of FairPoint Communications’ business troubles is awaiting its next step, court approval in New York of a supplemental plan for reorganization as means of moving out of bankruptcy.

Maine’s Public Utilities Commission, and those of New Hampshire and Vermont, are also reviewing the agreements they made with FairPoint when it took over the three states’ landline telephone operations from Verizon in 2008 at a price of $2.3 billion. There wasn’t much choice about the sale itself as Verizon had made it clear it didn’t want to invest any more resources in Northern New England.

So, the states were happy there was at least one willing buyer, even if FairPoint was moving up several levels of magnitude in its scale of operations. As it turned out, the company’s performance fell short, and bankruptcy was the result.

As part of the deal, Maine’s PUC required FairPoint to expand broadband Internet access to unserved regions, covering 83 percent of its customers by April and 90 percent by 2013. Now, it wants to extend the April deadline to December and reduce the 2013 goal to 87 percent.

One FairPoint request, however, is troubling. The firm wants to charge rural customers the full cost of individual service — which could run into thousands of dollars. Broadband access is not a luxury, and the cost instead should be prorated across all customers to make it available to as many Mainers as possible.

Regulators have many details to review to determine if that is reasonable, but whatever goal is set should be one the company can reasonably be expected to meet. And then FairPoint should be held to it.

Mainers have experienced enough service glitches and delays, and it is now time to move forward not only with expansion but reliability.

 


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