Competitor Takes Over Verizon's West Virginia Landlines; Complaints Drop Nearly 70%

from the service-level:-abandonment dept

Verizon’s service record has been less-than-stellar over the years. The increased scrutiny it faced after it decided it wouldn’t restore copper line service to New Yorkers whose connections were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy resulted in it partially walking back that decision. It was also recently ordered to turn over cost data on its copper lines (as compared to the wireless service it was trying to push these customers to switch to) by the New York Public Service Commission. This followed its original response to the FOI request, which was nothing but page after page of retracted data.

It’s no secret Verizon would prefer its customers to switch to its wireless Voicelink, which contains profitable data and voice caps. This is something it has in common with other major service providers like AT&T. It sometimes appears Verizon is waging a war of attrition against its customers in hopes of shedding those subscribed to services it no longer wishes to support while pushing others towards more profitable, but inferior, services.

Evidence of this approach recently surfaced in West Virginia, where a competing company had taken over Verizon’s former service area. The net result? A nearly 70% drop in complaints. (via BroadbandReports, Karl Bode’s other home)

Nearly four years after taking over Verizon’s West Virginia landline operations, Frontier Communications has expanded broadband access to roughly 176,000 households and seen consumer complaints drop by nearly 70 percent.

The state set down a list of requirements when Frontier took over, including instructing it to invest nearly $300 million to build out the network and improve service quality. Frontier did both, and well ahead of schedule. Frontier was required to hit 85% broadband coverage by the end of this year. At this point, it has already hit 88%, well over Verizon’s mark of 62% when Frontier took over. It has also added a 2,600-mile fiber optic transport system which has increased speed and reliability on the network.

But before we start inscribing Frontier’s name on the Company of the Year trophy (remember: Frontier spent a bit of time pushing for data caps), it’s important to note how little Frontier would have actually had to do to improve on Verizon’s service level. As Karl Bode pointed out in the Techdirt back room, any company taking over that provided a minimum of competence and care would likely have seen the same level of improvement.

According to Bode, Verizon’s “service” in the Charleston area rarely approached the lower rungs of “awful,” and more frequently resembled complete abandonment. Verizon service members would throw garbage bags over outdoor equipment to “protect” them from the elements, service calls routinely went unanswered for days and the service techs themselves were further handicapped by the company’s refusal to provide them with the proper tools and equipment. This abysmal service record helps explain the list of requirements the state’s Public Service Commission handed to Frontier when it took over the territory.

In the end, though, it still looks like a win for Charleston residents. They’re getting faster, more reliable service in more areas. But it also looks like a win for Verizon, which was able to ditch some landline territory it clearly had no interest in maintaining.

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Comments on “Competitor Takes Over Verizon's West Virginia Landlines; Complaints Drop Nearly 70%”

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Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Sorry but no wins here.

Sudo-monopolies help no one in a developed system, except those seeking to keep monopoly prices.

Frontier only provided the most basic level and was rewarded for it. But should a paid org be rewarded for providing water and bread while the rest of the country is able to enjoy ham and cheese sandwiches?

Anonymous Coward says:

Wish someone competent would take over my DSL circuits...

For years now, the DSL service where I live has been degrading at the hands of AT&T. Several times in the recent years I have been told by service techs that the remote equipment is faulty and failing, and in need of replacement.

Every few months, I have to beg them to come look at the lines and remote equipment – usually they just swap my circuit with some other poor guy’s circuit, in an attempt to satisfy me. I can only assume they do the same with the next guy when he complains.

It’s increasingly obvious that AT&T doesn’t want anything to do with their DSL wire services, and are hoping their customers will find alternatives.

Cloudbuster (user link) says:

Re: Wish someone competent would take over my DSL circuits...

It’s 2014 and AT&T still hasn’t brought DSL/Uverse to my address even though it’s available just a mile or two down the road (and Roadrunner is available a couple miles in the other direction). I feel like I’m in the land that time forgot as I wait for some company to bring me technology that was shiny new about 15 years ago.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Normally when the government grants a company monopoly power and gives them all this money in return for meeting some easy to meet requirements and the company completely fails to meet any of those requirements years after the deadline the response from the government is to throw more money at the company. and when that fails the government will continue to throw more money at the company.

What’s the definition of insanity? Oh yeah, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Amos says:

Re: Re:

You do realize that “monopoly” and “the market” are antithetical, right? Why am I asking? Obviously, you don’t. You’re an Occupy kid. The idea that you probably shouldn’t replace the distributed, controllable power of corporations with the centralized, uncontrollable, unrestrained power of the State hasn’t dawned on you.

Most public utilities are state- or nationally-chartered monopolies. AT&T was first granted its monopoly status by the government. Verizon is a product of the breakup of Ma Bell.

That breakup was done in the interest of free markets and better competition. The problem wasn’t that it was done, it was that it wasn’t done far enough.


And for the record – since history is clearly not your forte – Guy Fawkes was a Statist who fought on behalf of Spanish empire (which grew out of imperialistic, colonialist power) in the Netherlands.

He went to kill Dutch reformers.

His intentions in the basement of Parliament were not all that rosy. He was trying to violently overthrow the English crown in order to pave the way for Catholic interference.

Griff (profile) says:

My folks had Verizon DSL, which was either sold to or transitioned to Frontier at some point.

It worked ok, until Christmas Day a few years ago. It quit that afternoon. Phone was fine. Constant calls for repair was met with excuses, promises, it-shows-it’s-working-here, and other crap. After more than a month, they cancelled the service. It still didn’t work, no one understood why it didn’t work, and no one cared.

They have Wild Blue now, which is a big step down from the poor service that DSL was.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sounds like what with the recent Connecticut purchase Frontier made from AT&T, they might be catching a break too. And probably none too soon, if Comcast is about to expand so aggressively. The part of AT&T territory I’m in doesn’t even have DSL service, much less wireless service from them.

To their credit though, they’ve done a good job maintaining phones out here.

Just Sayin' says:

the numbers not percentages

When you look at the numbers, perhaps it’s not quite as good.

First off, it takes a bit of math, but it appears that there are about 1 million customers served here (done by looking at the 26% increase in broadband, which was 176,000 customers)… so 750,000 to 1 million customers.

Complaints? Well, that is the little line at the end of the story, where most people won’t look:

In the year before the takeover, the Verizon network logged 1,446 customer service requests. That number dropped to 460 in 2013 — a 68-percent decline.

Now, the headline (almost 70% decline!) sounds amazing, until you realize that the true numbers were pretty small (4 complaints a day to start, 1.25 complaints a day after), so a very, very small number of customers were in fact complaining.

You would hope for spending 280 million that the complaint number would hit zero or just about – they literally spent almost $300 per customer to improve service. That is a sizable investment in a world where the home POTS line costs about that a year for the average consumer. At that price, they shouldn’t have just improved service, they should have been slinging fiber to the homes and gotten it over with.

Carl "Bear" Bussjaeger (profile) says:

I beg to differ

“[A]ny company taking over that provided a minimum of competence and care would likely have seen the same level of improvement.”

A-hem. Not necessarily. Google (ootb alert!)”FairPoint New England bankruptcy”. Astonishingly as it may seem, it’s possible to out-do Verizon in customer abuse.

(If you really dig into the FairPoint fiasco, you’ll find a another [recently] familiar name popping up: CapGemini/CGI Federal; something I happened to write about a week ago:

Farix says:

You can't push customers into a service that doesn't exist

“It’s no secret Verizon would prefer its customers to switch to its wireless Voicelink, which contains profitable data and voice caps. This is something it has in common with other major service providers like AT&T. It sometimes appears Verizon is waging a war of attrition against its customers in hopes of shedding those subscribed to services it no longer wishes to support while pushing others towards more profitable, but inferior, services.”

But here is the kicker in West Virginia. Virizon’s wireless service was (and still is) virtually non-existent in the state outside of the Interstate corridors. You can’t push customers into a service that doesn’t exist.

CaptainObvious (profile) says:

I have to give Frontier some kudos.

My little brother lives in the area they took over from Verizon.
Before he was on bloody *Dial Up* for the price I pay my ISP for 3Mbps Cable.
His service was up & down faster than a Duncan at a Speed YoYoing contest.
After FC took over, he’s now got access to their fibre loop, pays less than I do, & mocks me as being a “Turtle in my internet fast lane!”
While I’m happy for him, dial up truly sucks in this day & age, and I have to give FC kudos for improving the service to the point where he’s on fibre, but it all just makes me wish Verizon would die in a fire *that much more*.

So, to the poster whom compaired it to being given “mere bread & water”, consider this:
Before they were lucky to get spoiled bread & tainted water.
Now it’s a loaf of fresh sourdough & a bottle of Evian, with options for Filet Mignon & a bottle of chilled Dom Perignon.
Going from 56Kbps dial up (on a good day if he was lucky) to Gigabit Fibre 24/7 is like going from being shackled to a boat anchor that weighs more than you do & unable to lift your head to see where you’re crawling, to being unchained, given wings, & having the rocket booster shoved up your butt.
Happy flying, RocketBoy, and try not to laugh too hard when you break FTL.

PTZ says:

Re: I have to give Frontier some kudos.

Have to agree with you. I live out in the boonies and the last time I called about getting DSL at my place before FC took over, the Verizon rep literally laughed and told me not to hold my breath. Within a year of FC running the show, I had access to 6 and 12 Mbps DSL. That told me Verizon didn’t give a shit about expanding their network to people more than willing to pay for it, begging for it even. Yay, Frontier (as long as they don’t keep pushing for wireline data caps, that is).

A Morgan says:

Frontier Communications

Here in WV, Frontier did indeed take over for Verizon but to pretend that they have done a great job is false. Their service is horrible. I have been on the phone 8 different times with Frontier due to latency/lag issues in the past month. I work from home and when my clients email me, it is taking anywhere from 2 to 12 hours for the email to arrive! Frontier has yet to fix this problem. Now, yesterday, internet service went down. Today it’s back up but is so slow I can walk faster. This has been an on again off again problem with Frontier for years. What happened to that rural internet development money? Why is WV so far behind the rest of the country? I conduct Speed tests and Frontier consistently gets a rating of F. I’m really tired of paying for a service that I can’t get AND WE HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE. No cable, modems are too slow. What do we have to do to get service? You tell me.

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