Governor John Lynch has signed legislation that creates a level regulatory playing field for all telecommunications providers in the state in order to promote an environment that encourages innovation and continued investment in telecommunications services.
"Today's communications landscape offers consumers more choice of providers and services than at any other time in history," said Sen. Bob Odell (R-Lempster), the bill's prime sponsor. "This new law recognizes that the telecommunications industry has changed. The New Hampshire telecommunications industry is no longer a monopoly environment, but rather a competitive environment with more than 30 providers. The law reflects this transformation, so that we can encourage ongoing private investment in the state's telecommunications infrastructure."
The legislation modernizes the regulation of telecommunications services, while continuing to provide the necessary protections to New Hampshire consumers. It offers telecommunications providers relief from monopoly-era retail regulation, freeing them to compete more effectively and confirms that Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services and IP-enabled services are not subject to regulation. It also preserves incumbent local exchange carrier obligations to serve as the carrier of last resort and ensures that all residents have an affordable basic service option for phone service.
"The legislation puts in place much needed regulatory reform reflecting today's competitive realities," said Pat McHugh, FairPoint's New Hampshire state president. "The current regulatory system, which was created 100 years ago, has become completely outdated because of changes in the telecommunications marketplace. The law is a good step forward, which ensures a level playing field for all telecommunication providers, fosters continued competition and ensures a free market for telecommunication services."
McHugh said that the new law provides regulatory freedom for all retail products and services, and allows FairPoint flexibility to quickly adjust its pricing to respond to changes in the marketplace. Also, it removes long-standing regulatory burdens – which included financial penalties – that are no longer necessary in this highly competitive environment.
The legislation was supported by a broad based coalition including incumbent local exchange companies, cable companies, competitive local exchange companies, wireless providers, New Hampshire Legal Assistance, chambers of commerce, the state Department of Resources and Economic Development and industry trade groups.