The proposed sale of Verizon Communications’ New England wireline exchanges to Fairpoint Communications cleared its final regulatory hurdle on Monday, as the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (NHPUC) approved the transaction with conditions designed to ensure Fairpoint’s financial viability. The decision comes one month after the NHPUC staff reached an agreement with the companies on a settlement that duplicates key financial conditions adopted by the Maine Public Utilities Commission and a stipulation ratified by the Vermont Public Service Board. (By a vote of 3-2, the FCC also approved the $2.7 billion transaction last month.) Resolving concerns that Fairpoint lacks the financial wherewithal to operate the exchanges it is acquiring from Verizon while implementing improvements to infrastructure, the NHPUC settlement obligates the parties to reduce the sale price by $235 million and further requires Fairpoint to cut annual dividends payable on common stock by 35%. Among other things, Fairpoint will also be required to (1) offer broadband service over 75% of its access lines within 18 months, (2) spend $56.4 million over the next five years to improve broadband infrastructure within the state, and (3) maintain service speeds and prices currently offered by Verizon for two years, including stand-alone DSL at a monthly rate of $37. In its order, the NHPUC proclaimed that Fairpoint’s commitments “are calculated to promote the financial health of its regulated operations in New Hampshire.” Verizon and Fairpoint are expected to complete the transaction by the end of next month.
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New Hampshire approves sale of Verizon assets to Fairpoint
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