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The Associated Press

DERRY, N.H. – Executives from (NYSE: FRP) told utility regulators from three states that it will be another two months before the company has a clear plan to resolve its customer service, billing and other problems.

On Thursday, a day after its executives were grilled about customer service failures, FairPoint was given a one-week extension on a deadline for responding to a complaint questioning its fitness to continue operating the region’s dominant telephone network.

The company, which had been given a Sept. 10 deadline to explain why it should be allowed to keep its Vermont certificate of public good, filed for and received a one-week extension for formally responding to a "show cause" petition filed July 14 by the state Department of Public Service.

"We want to make sure our response is as detailed and thorough as possible," said spokeswoman Beth Fastiggi.

On Wednesday, Vicky Weatherwax, who in July was appointed to a new position of vice president of business solutions, said she expects to get recommendations from outside analysts by mid-November. By the end of that month, Charlotte-based Fairpoint will decide how to implement them, she said.

Weatherwax was among four Fairpoint executives to speak at a highly unusual joint meeting of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, the Maine Public Utilities Commission and the Vermont Public Service Board. The goal was to give regulators an update on FairPoint’s efforts to stabilize its troubled operation systems, as well as organizational changes and financial matters.

FairPoint owns and operates phone companies in 18 states, but its largest holdings by far are in northern New England, where it bought Verizon Communications’ landline telephone and Internet business last year. The company officially took over the system seven months ago and has been beset with problems ever since.

Fairpoint CEO David Hauser, a former Duke Energy executive who was hired two months ago, said the company has begun shifting from a "work around" mentality to a "fix-it and improve it" mentality. Calls to the company’s customer service center are now answered in 20 seconds or less more than 89 percent of the time, he said, though problems remain, particularly with the accuracy of billing for business and wholesale customers. And about 22 percent of orders for new service or changes to existing services are late, he said.

"We have identified the areas that need further attention and have improvement plans in place for those areas," he said.

Regulators repeatedly pressed the executives for estimates of when the problems would be fixed, but company officials offered no firm deadlines.

"One of the reasons we’re here today is, frankly, frustration," said Vermont Public Service Board Chairman James Volz. He reminded the executives of their previous assurances that the problems would be cleared up by May.

"Quite clearly, that day has long since past, and we’ve seen neither sufficient progress nor a firm commitment that will achieve an acceptable level of service