HALLOWELL, Maine — Regulators decided against slapping FairPoint Communications with hefty fines for repeatedly missing service quality benchmarks for its landline service, instead requiring the company to pay for specific network improvements.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday approved a settlement that will require FairPoint to spend $185,000 on landline network infrastructure in Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor and the Washington County town of Perry.

All three areas had particularly high rates of problems.

The company agreed in the settlement to complete the improvements by the end of 2018, and it requires them to finish them by the end of 2019. If they miss the 2019 deadline, they will have to complete the work and $50,000 of additional upgrades by July 2020.

The settlement with the Office of the Public Advocate came after regulatory staff recommended slapping FairPoint with a $500,000 fine for missing service quality benchmarks, such as the rate of reported network troubles and the number of issues not resolved in 24 hours.

Commissioner Bruce Williamson said regulators decided against flat penalties because such penalties would provide no guarantee the company would fix service quality problems.

Commission Chairman Mark Vannoy agreed the company likely won’t see a return on investment from those landline improvements and because of that would not make them if not for the settlement.

The service quality violations dealt only with the company’s remaining regulated landline service, called provider of last resort service. In areas where FairPoint is the provider of last resort, it’s required to connect any customer who requests basic landline service, even if its unprofitable.

A company spokeswoman said earlier this month, upon release of the settlement terms, that the company is “pleased to have reached a mutually agreeable settlement” and that it has met new lightened service quality standards lawmakers put into place last year.

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.