Firm says Verizon service takeover will benefit Vermonters

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(Host) A North Carolina firm that wants to take over Verizon services says it will do better by Vermonters.

Verizon wants to sell its broadband and land-line services in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to Fairpoint Communications.

Verizon has promised the state of Vermont that is will bring Internet service to 80% of its Vermont customers by the year 2010.

Speaking this afternoon on VPR’s Vermont Edition, Fairpoint Vice-President Walter Leach said his company already provides 92% of its existing customers with high speed internet service called DSL.

Leach says if the purchase is approved by the state, Fairpoint will exceed the goals set for Verizon in Vermont.

(Leach) “We will significantly beat the 2010 target or threshold that’s put in place for Verizon. Over time we clearly would like to get it to the same level of all three northern New England states where we provide 92% of our customer base with a high speed data offering.”

(Host) Republican State Senator Vicent Illuzzi says before state regulators approve to the sale, Fairpoint should be required to agree to continually upgrade high speed internet service in Vermont, including bringing faster fiber optic technology.

(Illuzzi) “What Fairpoint is saying is that they’re going to bring us up to DSL, but while they’re bringing us up to DSL, other states are going to fiber. That suggests to us that although we’ll be one step ahead we’ll still be behind the eight ball when it comes to people deciding whether to move a business to Vermont.”

(Host) Leach said Fairpoint plans to bring fiber optic service to Vermont, but will first concentrate on getting DSL to people who don’t yet have it.

Verizon’s unionized workers have also raised concerns about the sale.

Ralph Montefusco of the Communications Workers of America says Fairpoint has little experience with unions.

Montefusco says Fairpoint will be assuming too much debt by purchasing the Verizon services. He says that could spell trouble for union workers when their contract expires next year.

(Montefusco) “We’re concerned we’ll be under a lot of pressure to give up on a lot of benefits such as pension and health care because this is such a debt ridden company. Just look around, read the newspapers and you see that’s where companies tend to try to cut expenses.”

(Host) Fairpoint’s Walter Leach says the company is willing to sit down with workers and discuss a contract extension.

Leach says Fairpoint’s debt will be manageable, and the company will be profitable enough to keep its employees happy and improve services to Vermont customers.

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