Fairpoint Communications, the largest telephone provider in Northern New England, is being sold. Illinois-based Consolidated Communications says it is buying Fairpoint for 1.5 billion dollars, marking a new chapter in the Fairpoint story, which has been marked by consumer complaints, union unrest and bankruptcy.
Last year, Fairpoint workers ended a year-long strike with a new contract that included worker concessions on health care and retirement benefits.
Last month Fairpoint announced layoffs of more than 100, while Maine regulators expanded the scope of an inquiry that could cost the company tens of thousands of dollars in penalties for failing to meet service quality standards. And like many landline-based phone companies Fairpoint has steadily lost customers to the cell-phone world.
But at the same time Fairpoint has made big investments in its fiber-optic network in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, which Consolidated CEO Bob Udell says his company can build on.
"That's why I say it's the right time in their history for us to come together. we're going to bring an accelerated focus on stepping up those investments where we think more bandwidth capability is needed to both temper the legacy revenue declines and create upside in the commercial space."
Fairpoint only returned to profitability earlier this year, five years after emerging from bankruptcy. A spokesman for the union that represents the bulk of the company's union workers says they are "cautiously optimistic" about the new company, and hopeful that it will be able to leverage Fairpoint's position to benefit workers and consumers, as well as shareholders.