CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – FairPoint Communications Inc. is promising a short-term fix and long-term resolution to customer service problems that have dogged the company since it arrived in northern New England.

Customers are complaining of long delays to report problems by phone, e-mail troubles and billing errors. But the company said Thursday it hopes to significantly improve service by the end of June.

A consultant monitoring the company is skeptical, saying in a new report that FairPoint’s early summer deadline is optimistic.

FairPoint bought Verizon Communications’ landline telephone and Internet business in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont a year ago but didn’t switch to its own computer systems until Jan. 30. Problems cropped up immediately.

In a plan submitted to the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission this week, FairPoint acknowledged that its customer service is unacceptable and is not improving fast enough. The commission has scheduled a daylong hearing on the plan for Friday.

North Carolina-based FairPoint has had similar problems in Maine and Vermont. The company submitted an improvement plan to Maine regulators last week.

Customers should start seeing improvements soon, company spokeswoman Jill Wurm said.

“We’re going to do some interim steps, which will correct things quickly,” she said of service in New Hampshire. “And then there will be some longer-term final solutions in place.”

But significantly improving service by the end of June probably is unrealistic because of the scope of the problems, the Liberty Consulting Group said in a report dated Wednesday.

“Senior leadership has continued to make statements that understate the problem severity and overstate success in fixing them,” Liberty said.

It said the Jan. 30 “cutover” from Verizon went fairly smoothly, but has been followed by a “post-cutover crisis” as FairPoint failed to respond quickly and effectively to problems as they arose.

Liberty said some Internet service problems have been resolved.

From the start, some questioned whether FairPoint was a big enough company to manage the northern New England network it bought for $2.3 billion.

FairPoint remains confident it can fix the problems, Wurm said.

“We have focused on what needs to be done and are rearranging processes, bringing in consultants and putting together metrics hopefully to confirm and measure our progress going forward,” she said.



On the Net:

FairPoint Communications Inc. www.fairpoint.com/


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