Business Briefs, Our Communities

Public Hearing to Consider Consolidated Communications Merger

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by Paul Fixx

MONTPELIER – The Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) will hold a public hearing March 7, at 6:30 p.m., to hear comments and testimony from members of the public about a proposed merger of Consolidated Communications (CNSL) with Condor Holding (Condor).

CNSL offers landline telephone service to consumers and businesses in much of Vermont, including the Gazette’s coverage area.

The Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) has funded the expansion broadband access over the last several years, but it will be many years before everyone has access to it.

Vermont Rep. Laura Sibilia (Dover, Jamaica, Somerset, Stratton and Wardsboro) has written to her constituents that “CNSL, the recipient of millions in state and federal public funds, is undergoing a transformation from a public company to a private one. This shift requires them to secure a Certificate of Public Good from the PUC. This process is essential to ensure that as they evolve, the interests of Vermonters are protected, particularly those in rural areas who rely on landline services.

“A crucial step in this process is the upcoming public proceeding, a hearing organized by the PUC, where a joint petition from CNSL, and Condor will be scrutinized. This hearing… is designed to evaluate the project’s compliance with utility regulations and procedures.”

Sibilia urges “Vermonters, particularly those in rural areas heavily reliant on landline services, to actively engage in this process. The PUC allows public participation through attending the hearing, submitting comments, or intervening as formal parties to the case. You can sign up at EPUC to offer your insights, comments and concerns.”

Sibilia asks that Vermonters “Please consider helping elderly neighbors and family members who may be directly impacted by this change. Encourage them to share their experiences with service quality, their dependence on the phone line, and any challenges faced in obtaining reliable communication services. Let’s work together to make sure all Vermonters, especially those in rural areas, have their voices heard in this process, ensuring a smooth transition for our communication services.”

Public comments can be made at epuc.vermont.gov.

The March 7 hearing will be held by Go To Meeting videoconference. The public hearing will begin at 7 p.m., or immediately following a presentation at 6:30 p.m., hosted by the Vermont Department of Public Service where CNSL and Condor will describe the project and answer questions about project details.

Members of the public may access the public hearing online at meet.goto.com/687217653, or call in by telephone at (646) 749-3129; access code 687-217-653. Participants may wish to download the GoToMeeting software application in advance of the hearing at meet.goto.com/install. Guidance on how to join the meeting and system requirements may be found at gotomeeting.com/online-meeting-support.

The VCBB was created to coordinate, facilitate, support, and accelerate the development and implementation of universal community broadband solutions. Paul Fixx is board chair of NEK Community Broadband, a Vermont Communications Union District serving Caledonia, Orleans and Essex Counties, as well as Wolcott.

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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