AUGUSTA (AP) – FairPoint Communications has never provided private telephone records to a federal agency, a top executive for the company told lawmakers Thursday in a reference to a phone-record privacy issue involving Verizon and several states.

Walter Leach Jr., a FairPoint executive vice president, responded to a legislator’s question about phone records during an update on the company’s purchase of Verizon’s landline phone and Internet service in northern New England.

The purchase has been approved by utility regulatory agencies in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont as well as the Federal Communications Commission, and the transaction is on track to close on March 31, Leach told the Utilities and Energy Committee.

The deal developed after Maine, Vermont and three other states served several telecommunications companies – Verizon among them – with subpoenas demanding to know if any customer information was turned over to the National Security Agency.

The federal government sought to have the cases thrown out, and the matter is pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California.

In Augusta on Thursday, state Rep. Herbert Adams, D-Portland, asked Leach if FairPoint, before the Verizon transaction, ever surrendered customer information under subpoena or voluntarily to the federal government.

“We can uncategorically say, we have not,” Leach told Adams after consulting briefly with an associate.

Pressing further, Adams asked if FairPoint will be able to say after the sale and conversion is complete whether Verizon ever provided individual or aggregate information about its customers to the U.S. government.

“I’m not sure that we can speak for Verizon on that point,” Leach said.

But he added that the order issued by the Maine Public Utilities Commission approving the purchase gives the PUC jurisdiction “to deal with that issue of past practices by Verizon.”

Adams, noting that FairPoint must appoint an officer to deal with privacy issues, asked who that person would be. Leach said he was not sure and promised to get the answer for the committee. He added that the company is developing a privacy policy.

On another issue, Leach said 2,700 Verizon employees “will come with the transaction.” Additional administrative positions that have been moved from northern New England will be returned to the states.

Leach reiterated the North Carolina-based company’s promise to bring 675 new jobs to the region, with 280 going to Maine, 250 to New Hampshire and the rest to Vermont. He also said the Verizon pension plan will be fully funded.

FairPoint customers won’t notice much of a difference just after the sale is completed, Leach told the committee. He said the company is trying to keep its bills as similar as possible to Verizon’s.


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