CONCORD, N.H. – State regulators approved a plan Wednesday for FairPoint Communications to work itself out of bankruptcy and commended northern New England’s largest telecommunications company for its “steady progress” toward improved service.

The North Carolina-based company became burdened by heavy debt and technical problems after paying $2.3 billion in 2008 for Verizon Communications Inc.’s landline and Internet phone operations in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. It took over the operation in 2009 and filed for bankruptcy in October.

After the switch, many customers complained about FairPoint services. Many lost e-mail messages or couldn’t access them. Some complained that they weren’t getting bills on time, and many said they couldn’t get through to FairPoint call centers to report problems.

Last week, Vermont regulators rejected FairPoint’s reorganization plan, saying they could not find that FairPoint had demonstrated the financial capability to meet its obligations. Maine regulators approved FairPoint’s plan last month. A final plan awaits confirmation by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Jill Wurm, FairPoint spokeswoman in New Hampshire, said it isn’t clear whether all three states must approve the plan for it to go forward. She said the company is evaluating Vermont’s decision and what FairPoint should do in that state.

In a 78-page order, New Hampshire’s Public Utilities Commission said Wednesday that “FairPoint has made steady progress in addressing its operational problems and it has significantly upgraded the talent level on its board of directors and in senior management in the most critical areas.”

According to the order, the “critical financial element” of FairPoint’s plan is the agreement by its secured lenders to reduce the company’s debt from $2.7 billion to $1 billion, including the discharge of unsecured debt. In return, the lenders will be issued new common stock in the reorganized company.

Colin Manning, spokesman for Gov. John Lynch, said the commission found the plan to be in the best interest of the customers. “And we agree with it,” Manning said.

Wurm said the company is pleased with the commission’s order.

“It helps us in our ability to restructure FairPoint’s debt and improve our balance sheet in a timely manner, which is vital to the long-term health of FairPoint and our ability to meet current and future needs of customers,” she said.

The commission noted that while FairPoint’s future business prospects and financial success are not assured, “there is a reasonable basis to conclude that FairPoint will be able to meet its commitments” under its agreement with New Hampshire.

It also noted that FairPoint has sought multiple consulting firms since 2009 to correct “back-office failures that have plagued wholesale and retail customers.”

“The difficulties that persist cannot be attributed to a lack of attention or to stinting on resources,” the order said.

The commission said that despite an unacceptably slow start in resolving system problems, FairPoint is now making performance improvements and staffing changes that appear to improve its ability to succeed.

FairPoint has more than 1.6 million access lines in northern New England.