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FairPoint Charged With Faking Tests

Regulators are investigating an alleged insider's claim that FairPoint falsified the tests that showed its readiness to take over Verizon's New England landlines.

Regulators in Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire are investigating an anonymous tip alleging that the readiness tests conducted before the switchover of landlines from Verizon to FairPoint Communications were faked.

The account from an alleged FairPoint Communications insider may explain why telecommunications regulators in northern New England were surprised when FairPoint customers complained so vigorously after the firm took over phone lines from Verizon early this year.

Regulators from the three states have scheduled a joint hearing for Sept. 9 to discuss the myriad of service problems surrounding FairPoint's $2.4 billion takeover of the northern New England lines. Verizon has been transferring mostly rural telecom assets in several states while it concentrates on growing its Verizon Wireless and FiOS high speed cable services.

FairPoint said it was also investigating the charge. "We take these allegations seriously and will do a thorough investigation," said FairPoint CEO David Hauser in a statement. Hauser took over the top position at FairPoint after the allegedly fake tests took place.

FairPoint subscribers have been plagued by a series of problems since the Feb. 1 switch of phone service. Susan Hudson, a clerk at the Vermont Public Service Board, said she received an anonymous e-mail from "David Unavailable" who said the tests had been faked.

In one e-mail, "David Unavailable" wrote, "As January neared and it appeared to everyone on site in Atlanta [where the tests took place] that there would be another delay, suddenly (FairPoint president) Peter Nixon and (its then-CEO) Gene Johnson made the announcement that the cut to the new systems would take place at the end of January and the relationship with Verizon would end. Most people were stunned as it did not appear feasible."

The stated purpose of the tests was to prove that FairPoint's network had the capacity to handle the Verizon landlines that were scheduled to be taken over. The tipster said he or she was working in FairPoint's Atlanta offices.

After studying the pile of complaints from FairPoint customers, earlier this month the Vermont Public Service Board asked FairPoint to "show cause" why its license to do business in the state shouldn't be revoked.


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