PORTLAND (AP) – FairPoint Communications Inc. has pushed back the “cutover date” when it assumes full responsibility of the northern New England landline phone and Internet network it bought from Verizon Communications Inc. this year.

Officials with the North Carolina-based company said Monday that they have pushed back the date by 60 days, from late November to the end of January, 2009. This summer, FairPoint extended the date from September to November.

Chairman and CEO Gene Johnson said the delay will give more time for system enhancements, employee training and testing.

He said it is a complex task to replace Verizon’s 600 back-office computer systems with 60 new state-of-the-art computer systems.

FairPoint last spring bought Verizon’s land operations in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont for $2.3 billion in a deal that included 1.6 million phone customers and 230,000 high-speed Internet customers.

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