FairPoint Reaches Agreement with Staff of the New Hampshire Public Utilities CommissionCHARLOTTE, NC (PRNewswire-FirstCall) — FairPoint Communications, Inc. today (January 24, 2008) announced an agreement has been reached between FairPoint, Verizon and the staff of the Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) regarding FairPoint’s proposed acquisition of Verizon’s wireline operations in New Hampshire. The settlement agreement in New Hampshire is consistent with material terms of the amended stipulation agreement with the Maine PUC and the settlement agreement with the Vermont Department of Public Service and contains other terms and conditions specific to New Hampshire. In the agreement, FairPoint, Verizon, and the staff of the PUC recommend the New Hampshire PUC approve the settlement agreement.FairPoint’s acquisition of Verizon’s wireline operations in New Hampshire is part of a larger, previously announced transaction in which FairPoint would also acquire Verizon’s wireline operations in Maine and Vermont. The license transfers in connection with the transaction have been approved by the Federal Communications Commission and the transaction has been approved by the Maine PUC, subject to receipt of a written order from the Maine PUC. The Public Service Board in Vermont has yet to rule on the settlement agreement entered into by FairPoint, Verizon and the Vermont Department of Public Service.”We are pleased at the thoughtful approach by the staff of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission and believe this agreement appropriately addresses important public interest issues in the state. We look forward to serving the people of New Hampshire,” said Gene Johnson, chairman and CEO of FairPoint.In addition to the key financial conditions in the amended stipulation in Maine and the key conditions in the settlement agreement with the Vermont Department of Public Service, FairPoint committed to additional conditions in New Hampshire which address capital expenditures, network and service quality improvement plans, broadband expansion and assurances of financial viability that will benefit the state.Vermont reaches tentative deal with FairPoint to buy VerizonlandlinesIn early January, the Vermont Department of Public Service reached agreement with FairPoint Communications on its $2.7 billion deal to buy Verizon Communications 1.6 million landlines in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.The new deal, as in New Hampshire, mimics the plan approved in Maine last week, which includes a steep reduction in FairPoint’s shareholder dividend (35 percent, resulting in a $50 million per year savings) and what is a de facto reduction in the price of the sale by $235.5 million. The financial moves were considered important in ensuring that FairPoint would be financially able to consumate the deal and live up to other provisions in the agreement, including extension of DSL service and other service and reliability guarantees. FairPoint had reported that to make the deal it would have to borrow $2.5 billion.The deal also includes penalties up to $12.5 million if goals are not met. The Vermont agreement states that FairPoint must invest at least $40 million each year for the first three years and starting in 2009 spend at least $35 million to reduce debt.The entire deal still needs final approval by the Vermont Public Service Board, and by the regulatory body in New Hampshire.The Vermont Public Service Board previously rejected, on December 21, 2007,the application of FairPoint Communications to buy Verizon’s Vermontlandlines. The docket was not closed, however, allowing FairPoint to rework the deal. The PSB said the deal requires the company to carry toomuch debt to be financially sound.FairPoint has also agreed to make broadband Internet access available to all of its customers in at least half its exchanges by 2010.Even if FairPoint ultimately gains approval, discrepancies in thefinal rulings among the three states would have to be dealt with byeach state’s regulatory board.By the middle of December, anyway, it seemed like thedisagreements and conflict over the decision to approve FairPointCommunications $2.7 billion dollar acquisition were finally coming toan end, after the Maine Office of the Public Advocate and the stateadvocate staff at the Public Utility Commission finally agreed toconditions of the settlement on December 12. The agreement comesafter months of opposition from Consumer Advocates and labor unions that stalled thestate’s PUC decision to accept or reject the sale.In December, consumer advocates in Maine and New Hampshirereleased reports urging their state Public Utilities Commissions toreject Verizon’s sale. FairPoint, a North Carolina phone companythat is one-sixth the size of Verizon. Buying Verizon’s northern New England phone lines would make it the eighthlargest communications company in the nation. The settlement, whichwould affect virtually every person with a phone in New Hampshire,Maine and Vermont, needs final approval from all three states utilityregulators before it takes effect.Vermont has focused mainly on how the settlement will affectconsumer-related issues, such as the extension of DSL service areasand reliability. Staff from boards in Maine and New Hampshire,however, initially released reports urging their state’s PUC to full-out reject theproposal. Advocates said they are against the merger because theyfear that FairPoint is not financially capable of making infrastructureimprovements and service commitments without hiking rates, cuttingemployees, or going out of business altogether.”FairPoint and Verizonhave not met their burden of showing that the transaction is in thepublic interest,” explained Meredith A. Hatfield, a consumer advocatefrom New Hampshire. The Maine Public Utilities commission echoedthese sentiments in a report they released in November.”Theproposed transaction subjects both ratepayers and shareholders tosubstantial risks and harms that are not outweighed by any of thepotential benefits of the transaction.”FairPoint has 975 employees in contrast to Verizon’s3,000. FairPoint’s 2006 revenues were at $270 million while Verizon’swere $88 billion. The acquisition would force FairPoint into a $30million dollar a year debt agreement to repay their $2 billion dollardebt. Critics believe these numbers indicate that the settlement willgive FairPoint a financial burden they can’t handle.Despite their outright refusal of the merger, the reports did listterms and conditions for the acquisition if it were approved. Reportsreleased from the Maine Public Utilities Commission ordered that threemain conditions be met for their approval. First, FairPoint must submitto the PUC a plan to deal with expected loss of workers. As part of thedeal, Verizon was also recommended to cut its $2.7 billion dollar pricetag by $600 million. If they do not follow this suggestion, the companymust set aside significant funds for infrastructure upgrades withinFairPoint. As of the December 12 agreement, The company was alsorequired to make minimum capital investments of $47 million in Maineover the next three years, and will reduce dividend levels by 35percent. PUC staff in New Hampshire were not as flexible. They listedeleven conditions in their report that need to be met by bothcompanies for the acquisition to be approved. One of their conditionsalso addressed the issue of Verizon’s price tag, and the debt it willcause FairPoint. The report specifically suggested that Verizon cutFairPoint’s acquisition cost by $200 million with no cost to thecompany. To further address its $30 million dollar debt issue, FairPointwas also urged to cut its dividends by 20 percent. The commission alsowants to have say in fixing the companies transition serviceagreement, or TSA. The briefing says that the price of the TSA exceedsthe costs of services, which gives Verizon and unnecessarily largeprofit. The report suggested that FairPoint have a third party monitorto judge the company’s cutover readiness criteria-or the time whenFairPoint could fully separate from all Verizon systems.
Game two of the series is Thursday at 10:08 p.m. Topa’s father Bob and sister Kristy are watching closely from home. “I remember him being in kindergarten and bringing home a shirt that says, ‘I want to be a professional baseball player,'” said Kristy. Both Bob and Kristy always imagined themselves watching Justin’s debut in person. The Milwaukee Brewers are taking on the Dodgers in Los Angeles for a best of three wild card series. Only the home team’s family is allowed to attend the series to limit the number of guests in attendance. “He’s proving that he was made for this. So we are so excited for him and so proud of him.” said Kristy. “You could see, he was back having fun,” he said. “Seeing all these experiences he’s had over the last month in general has been unreal,” said Kristy. (WBNG) — One month after making his Major League Baseball debut, Chenango Valley graduate Justin Topa is experiencing postseason baseball firsthand. “Emotional, exciting, and nervous all at the same time especially when he comes in the game,” said Bob. If the Brewers make it past the Dodgers and advance to the National League Division Series, the Topa’s will do whatever they can to be there. It took Justin seven years to make it to the big leagues, and he faced some adversity throughout his journey. In six appearances over the last month, Topa posted a 2.35 ERA with 12 strikeouts, across 7.2 innings pitched. Kristy and Bob say playing big league baseball has been Justin’s dream since he was a child. “We definitely never pictured his debut without us being there,” said Kristy. “With that being said it’s awesome we can still at least watch.” ” I don’t care where I have to go. I will be in the stands,” said Bob. Bob said he could tell when Justin was cut by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017, the game wasn’t as fun anymore. After spending a year playing Independent League ball, Bob said it returned.