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November 11, 2013

FairPoint seeks phone rate increase

FairPoint Communications is asking regulators for $68 million more in annual revenue through a rate increase on rural telephone customers and access to a state fund.

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network reported the company wants to raise $700,000 through a $2-per-line fee increase for about 30,000 rural customers now getting "provider of last resort service."

Additionally, the company hopes to get roughly $67 million from the Maine Universal Service Fund. That fund now generates around $8 million per year, through fees on all phones in Maine.

Maine Public Advocate Tim Schneider told MPBN that the request for a "dramatic increase" in the universal service fund gives regulators pause and that it could require a change in the law governing FairPoint's eligibility to receive payments from the fund.

FairPoint spokesman Jeff Nevins said the request comes as the company's costs for providing access to phone service everywhere in the state have gone up. He said the company would like the changes to take effect next month but acknowledges the request for access to the universal service fund could take longer to resolve. The Maine Public Utilities Commission has yet to schedule hearings for either case.

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