- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The Vermont Department of Public Service said Friday that FairPoint Communications has agreed to take steps to ensure timely repairs for those without phone service while a workers’ strike continues in northern New England.

Customers considered the most vulnerable, such as those with a medical condition, will be given priority, followed by those who have no cell service, the department said. All subscribers who experience a service outage for more than seven days will be tracked and reported to the department.

The department said it has received more than 700 complaints about FairPoint’s service since more than 1,700 workers across Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire went on strike Oct. 17.

“The Department has grave concerns regarding the number of customers who appear to be experiencing serious delays in repair of service and we believe immediate remedial action is necessary,” Public Service Commissioner Christopher Recchia said.

The utility-regulating Vermont Public Service Board is investigating FairPoint Service at the request of the department.

Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont’s congressional delegation have also written letters to FairPoint’s chief executive officer urging the company to negotiate to end the strike.

CEO Paul Sunu responded by saying the unions on strike have refused to bargain in good faith and the service problems that have plagued the company since the strike are due to four major storms in 50 days.

The union’s chief negotiator, Peter McLaughlin of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said FairPoint had rejected virtually all their proposals.

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