Broadband news for consumers: P.U.C. ratifies completion of broad band build-out

By Ramona du Houx

Verizon investment will make high-speed Internet access available to dozens of towns and thousands of Mainers

Verizon New England has completed a major build-out of high-speed Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service in Maine, making good on a proposal it offered and the PUC approved last summer.

"This marks rapid progress in the effort to improve Maine’s access to the economic and creative potential of the Internet," said Kurt Adams, chairman of the PUC. "The commission accepted the proposal because it would bring new broadband service to more than 30,000 Mainers, many of them in previously unserved or underserved areas of the state."

The new DSL infrastructure is spread across Verizon’s service territory in Maine, from St. Agatha to Wells to Cranberry Isles. It affects large towns and small towns, from portions of Portland to the Forks and Brooklin.

Verizon submitted the build-out plan after successful negotiations with the Office of the Public Advocate, which represents Maine consumers in PUC proceedings. "We closely monitored Verizon’s compliance with the agreement, and those terms have been carried out," Adams said.

The agreement identified specific locations where new DSL will become available, increasing to 70 percent of the proportion of Verizon’s landline customers in Maine, who will now have the option of high-speed access to the Internet.

Under the agreement Verizon was required to complete the build-out, using all-new equipment, within six months. The company has provided weekly progress reports to the PUC and reported project completion this week.

The commission also facilitated negotiations on a related agreement which barred Verizon from passing the cost of the build-out on to FairPoint Communications, Inc. as part of its proposed takeover of Verizon’s landlines in Maine. That cut the cost of the merger for FairPoint, and FairPoint in addition agreed to make its own broadband investments to bring high-speed Internet service to 83 percent of all its customers’ lines within two years, and 90 percent over five years.

Chairman Adams noted that Verizon’s lines make up about 85 percent of all telephone lines in Maine. "If the Verizon-FairPoint transaction is completed as we approved it, these investments will go a very long way toward meeting the statutory goal of nearly universal broadband access for Maine by 2010," Adams said.

Customers wondering if DSL is available to them may go to Verizon’s Web page and enter their telephone number. The Web page will tell them whether DSL is likely to be available to them. A customer can also call Verizon directly.