PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Illinois-based Consolidated Communications and North Carolina-based FairPoint have closed on a deal that created a telecommunications company operating in 24 states, including Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Shareholders approved the merger on March 28 and financing has been in place since December. All states have provided regulatory approval, as well. Consolidated closed the $1.3 billion deal on Monday. Consolidated President and CEO Bob Udell says the company will be well positioned to expand services and attract new customers while maintaining local community support. The company says the deal makes Consolidated the ninth largest fiber optic communications provider in the United States.