New Hampshire officials delayed action Tuesday on a $13 million state contract with FairPoint Communications for Internet and phone services amid a strike by the company's Northern New England workers that has disrupted service across the state.
"I have big concerns that the poor service levels we've been seeing from FairPoint right now wouldn't live up to the terms in the contract," Democratic Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern said.
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The council was scheduled to vote on the contract at Tuesday's meeting, but Van Ostern asked the commissioner of the administrative services department to withdraw it from the agenda.
FairPoint already provides most of the phone and Internet services for state properties and agencies. Under the contract, FairPoint would provide all services through 2020. The contract is likely to come before the council again in January, said Linda Hodgdon, administrative services commissioner.
A spokeswoman for FairPoint said the company is working with the state to address questions in the contract. Angelynne Beaudry, director of corporate communications, said she thinks the council will be able to move forward on the contract at the January meeting.
More than 1,700 FairPoint workers in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine went on strike in October after executives of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company offered a new contract that significantly cut benefits. Gov. Maggie Hassan has met with FairPoint executives and is urging both sides to come back to the bargaining table. Residential customers and towns have reported outages and poor service, some of which FairPoint executives said are due to winter storms.
"We've seen some disruptions in service, and I think it's appropriate to get those questions answered before there's a vote on the contract," Hassan said.
Hodgdon said she plans to address pieces of the contract with FairPoint before bringing it back before the council. She did not say which specific parts of the contract she would discuss with the company.
Elected officials across New Hampshire have weighed in on the strike. Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Annie Kuster wrote a letter to FairPoint officials asking them to return to the bargaining table. Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte's office says she has urged the company to respond to outages in a timely manner.