Verizon Communications’ plan to sell local exchange landlines in 14 states to Frontier Communications ran into a potential roadblock as an Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) administrative law judge (ALJ) issued a ruling on Tuesday that recommends against ICC approval of the $5.25 billion deal. Signed last May, Verizon’s agreement to sell roughly 4.8 million access lines in Illinois, California, Ohio, South Carolina and ten other states to Frontier would nearly triple Frontier’s size to boost the competitive wireline carrier to the rank of the nation’s largest provider of voice, broadband and video services to rural areas. Drawing parallels to Verizon’s March 2008 sale of New England landlines to Fairpoint Communications, a deal that ultimately forced the financially-strapped Fairpoint into bankruptcy, ALJ Lisa Tapia cited similar concerns with Frontier’s financial condition in determining that the transaction “will adversely impact Frontier’s ability to provide adequate, reliable, efficient, safe and least-cost utility service.” Although ICC staff members last month recommended conditions that would require Frontier to adhere to certain service, quality, and regulatory standards, Tapia said the proposed conditions are inadequate as both Frontier and Verizon have experienced difficulties in meeting minimum standards on toll and directory assistance, service, and repair. As such, Tapia concluded, “it seems likely that Frontier will have a more difficult time meeting the minimum key standards . . . due to the replication process of the operation support systems, along with other factors that come into play.” Tapia further warned: “if Frontier falls significantly short of its revenue and expense goals, it would likely come under severe pressure to reduce service-related spending , cut capital expenditures, and lower its dividend payments” to the detriment of customers and investors. The ICC is expected to issue its final ruling next month. Declaring that “the record developed in this case provides comprehensive evidence and assurances that the transaction with Frontier . . . is in the public interest,” a Verizon official said: “we believe the [ICC] should not adopt the [ALJ’s] recommendation but instead should issue an order that approves the transaction, as regulatory commissions in six other states have already done.”