Wednesday, October 13, 2010

FairPoint Map, Pt. 2

FairPoint's difficulties in taking over Verizon telecommunications assets in Maine have not inspired confidence.  Thus when I saw the firm's map indicating areas where broadband was to be deployed by the end of 2010 I was not only encouraged, but also curious whether exansion was actually on track. 

 The short answer is "maybe" and "time will tell".  While this is a bit unsatisfying, the reasons for the ambiguity are instructive. 

FairPoint has pledged to the Maine Public Utilities Commission that it will roll out broadband service to at least 83% of its subscribers by the end of 2010.  The original target had been 90%, but was adjusted downward once already in recognition of time and expense involved. 

Accordingly, according to a FairPoint spokesperson, crews are rushing to install the necessary equipment in a large number of locations more or less at the same time.  Rather than make an upgrade in a given area in linear fashion, from step 1 to completion, work is going being done in an opportunistic manner.  As equipment comes in, as installers capable of doing particular tasks are freed up, work goes forward on corresponding projects.  In other words, workers are being kept busy doing what they can do on projects that are ready for them.  

Hence, the projects represented on the map cannot be neatly divided between those that are done and those that have not yet been started. Quite a few of them, according to my contact, are essentially "in progress".

Reading between the lines, my guess is that

a.  "End of 2010" will probably mean first quarter of 2011 for some areas

b.  A handful of areas in the "by the end of 2010" group of locations may slip substantially further and be replaced by other areas that turn out to be easier to install

c.  FairPoint is very much playing "catch-up" in respect to broadband deployment.  This is not what one would like business as usual to be.  Much as one would wish things to be more orderly, and much as one might attribute the current situation to FairPoint's own shortcomings, one has to root for the company to successfully meet its myriad obligations.

Come January, 2011, it will be interesting to see whether FairPoint has substantially fulfilled expectations for broadband deployment in 2010.  It will be a major indicator of whether the firm has swung into financial and technological recovery, or whether individuals and businesses in Maine will have to search elsewhere for that highspeed link to the future.