New local phone company vies for GTE's business

"A new telephone company has come calling on Oak Harbor businesses offering lower local and long distance telephone rates.FairPoint Communications, with regional offices in Bellingham, has spent the last four months trying to get business owners in Oak Harbor and Anacortes to make a switch from long-time phone service supplier GTE.FairPoint is taking advantage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act which basically ended the monopoly of local telephone service held by large companies such as GTE and US West. Companies such as FairPoint can now go into smaller communities and offer up their own products and services while leasing existing lines and switchers. The two-year-old company has grown to 400 employees with service in several states from Oak Harbor to Portland, Maine. It currently ranks as the 17th largest independent telephone company in the country.For local customers, though, it all boils down to price and service.FairPoint got it right the first time,'' said Dolores Breha, owner of Miss Print. Breha said she was unhappy with the service she'd gotten in the past - especially from AT&T long distance. She said she became FairPoint's first customer in town when she signed up for local, long distance and data-line service from the company.So far I've had no problems, she said.FairPoint Account Executive Matthew Graff said switching over doesn't require much effort from the customer these days. There's no need to change phones or phone numbers. Almost all the work goes on behind the scenes.I'd say 95 percent of our customers don't even know they've been switched, he said.Graff said FairPoint will likely install its own local switching system in August. The company only offers business service. They do not serve residential lines."

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