A company struggling to provide cell phone service in rural Vermont has asked state utility regulators for emergency help, because one of its key provider has cut off access to most of its network.
CoverageCo went before the state Public Utility Commission this week to ask that regulators order Consolidated Communications – the state’s primary landline provider – to restore service to its microcell sites.
The company provides cell coverage along rural highways in 26 towns, mainly in southern Vermont.
Consolidated Communications operates the former Fairpoint network and provides the critical link between the cell sites and the rest of the phone network. Consolidated says CoverageCo is 14 months behind in its payments, which come to about $8,000 a month.
But CoverageCo lawyer David Mullett said that when Consolidated cut off service, the public was put at risk because people along those highways cannot access emergency 911 lines from their cell phones.
“We cast this as initially a request for a temporary restraining order to move off of an immediate situation that is a detriment, we submit on any rational analysis, to all parties and to the public,” he said.
The utility commission gave both sides, and the state, until Friday to submit briefs both on the request for an emergency order, and whether the PUC has jurisdiction over the issue.