Consolidated to commit $52M to upgrade Maine networks after completing FairPoint deal

Consolidated Communications has pledged $52.2 million to conduct network upgrades in Maine if its acquisition of FairPoint gets state regulatory approval.

According to a document filed on Tuesday by Consolidated Communications and FairPoint, the service provider has laid out a three-year investment plan mandated by the state’s public advocate.

Under the plan, Consolidated will make $17.4 million of annual investments for three years beginning 2018, with an aim to expand and upgrade broadband networks. Additionally, a so-called "stipulation" confirms that the service provider will leave existing agreements with other regulated carriers intact for at least three years.

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In a separate settlement with New Hampshire's Consumer Advocate, Consolidated will be required to make capital expenditures on the network valued at 13% of in-state revenues per year for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020.

During each of those years, Consolidated will spend an additional $1 million per year to address service quality issues, including high trouble report rates. The 13% of revenues in New Hampshire represents an increase over FairPoint's typical capital spending level for the past few years.

These agreements were greeted favorably by representatives from the telco’s two main labor unions—the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

“We applaud this as a positive step that will be good for both our members and consumers,” CWA and IBEW said in a joint statement on the Fairness@FairPoint Facebook page.

However compelling these agreements are, CWA and IBEW said they are worried about Consolidated’s “future staffing plans," in part because of its repeated references to "synergies."

CWA and IBEW said that “corporate talk of synergies often presages outsourcing of good local jobs” adding that in the near-term “our contract contains important job protections, and our unions will continue to vigorously defend them.”

One of the bigger challenges for the unions and Consolidated will be faced during the upcoming labor negotiation process in 2018.

A key issue for the unions during the upcoming labor negotiation process will be whether Consolidated decides to outsource local jobs. Outsourcing jobs was one of the sticking points the unions had with FairPoint during negotiations in 2014 and 2015.

“We hope that Consolidated will choose another path, one of cooperation with and respect for the workers who have built and maintain the critical network that our customers depend on,” CWA and IBEW said.