FairPoint Communications was assessed $2.8 million in penalties in 2009 and 2010 for poor service quality. Those penalties should have been paid to customers, many of whom had to endure lengthy disruptions in service after FairPoint bought Verizon's landline phone operations in Northern New England. Instead, the state Public Utilities Commission is letting Fairpoint use the money to expand its business.
Last month the PUC approved a plan by FairPoint to spend the penalty money expanding broadband Internet access throughout New Hampshire. The state has long desired greater broadband coverage, particularly in the North Country. Most PUC commissioners concluded that FairPoint's offer would amount to a tremendous public benefit for the state.
True, more of the state will have broadband service if FairPoint completes this project. It also is true that FairPoint will have thousands of new customers.
FairPoint sells broadband Internet service. This is no altruistic venture; it is a business investment. The PUC has decided to punish FairPoint by making it richer. It would be like allowing an arrested Hollywood director to work off his court-ordered community service by starting a New Hampshire-based feature film production company.
The money should have been returned to FairPoint customers.