Millions Annoyed As Frontier Bungles Acquisition of Verizon Customers Across Three States

from the dysfunction-junction dept

In February of last year, Frontier Communications announced it would be buying Verizon's unwanted fiber (FiOS), DSL, and phone customers in Florida, Texas, and California for $10.5 billion. The deal was yet another chapter in Verizon's effort to give up on fixed-line networks it no longer wanted to upgrade, as it focused on more profitable (read: usage capped) wireless service. The deal was, as Frontier's CEO stated at the time, a "natural evolution for our company and leverages our proven skills and established track record from previous integrations."

As it turns out, that "established track record" didn't mean all that much.

Shortly after Frontier began attempting to integrate 3.7 million customers in the three states starting April 1, things began to unravel. Numerous customers complained they couldn't use phone, broadband or cable TV services -- at all -- for weeks. Company apps no longer worked. Some DNS servers stopped responding. Voicemail services no longer functioned. Customers left without service for weeks say they called customer service lines only to be yelled at or ignored by Frontier support representatives.

As the outages and problems continue throughout May, politicians and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi had to intervene and begin the traditional practice of light wrist slapping for the screw ups:
"The ones that are most disturbing to me are our senior complaints that only have a hardline and they can’t call 9-1-1 if they need too. Many people, they’re internet is down so their alarm systems aren’t working,” she said. “This is unacceptable that this has happened. We’ve told them that, first of all people who have been out cable service, should not have to request a refund; they should automatically be given a refund."
Frontier's also now under fire in California, where lawmakers recently held a hearing to press Frontier on its incompetence. At the hearing, Frontier blamed "corrupt Verizon data" and a particularly dysfunctional overseas support center obtained by Verizon for the problems:
"Another key issue was the temporary use of a Philippines-based call center. Frontier used that call center because it was the same one Verizon used to handle customer issues and the company assumed those customer service representatives worked with California customers before."
Except "corrupt data" doesn't explain the depth of the problems (like broken DNS servers), and most of these issues should have been prepared for during the fifteen months between the deal's announcement and the customer integration.

The real problem is that Verizon (who no longer wanted these customers) sold them to a company focused on growing for growth's sake -- but unmotivated to seriously invest in customer support because there's just not enough competition to warrant it. And this isn't the first time this has happened; both Fairpoint Communications and Hawaiian Telcom went bankrupt when they bought massive swaths of unwanted Verizon territory. In the Fairpoint deal, the ISP acquired Verizon's customers in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, but then imploded from the support strain -- and the debt from the deal.

In short, regulators keep seeing how these lose/lose deals go south quickly, but keep signing off on them anyway. Usually that's because they figure that an utterly incompetent company is better than an utterly apathetic company when it comes to delivering barely adequate service. It's just par for the course for an industry where abysmal service is the norm -- because there's little to no real competitive pressure holding any of them to a higher standard.
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Filed Under: broadband, competition, customer service, dsl
Companies: frontier, verizon

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  1. icon
    ljnova (profile), 28 May 2016 @ 12:34pm

    from a bud who works for Verizon in transferring to Frontier:

    “Frontier didn’t get screwed. The systems stay the same for one year and we gave them an entire IT team to support the backend in the transition. We worked with them for MONTHS before the transition. This is not Verizon’s fault. The reality is that they are using the exact same system we do for FiOS. We just cut the ties in the database so the 2 sides don’t talk. The outages are all on frontier. They got our systems and our people and they still can’t make it work. Vz tried to tell them to convert rather than transition status quo. We even built them a proprietary version of our ordering system. In my mind it was gift wrapped. Interestingly, customers started complaining of slower throughput immediately after Frontier took over… And they are incapable of restoring service… Even though it’s the same people and the same systems.”-end quote

    what I just stated above is from a Verizon employee that assisted in the transfer to Frontier so he knows what he’s talking about.

    Here’s another post from another Verizon employee :

    “The first Frontier purchase in 2009-2010 was relatively smooth because the properties sold were operated as a joint venture for about a year. This gave Frontier time to slowly integrate the newly-acquired properties into their operations so as to minimize disruption.

    The 2016 purchase was essentially an immediate conversion. On midnight April 1, the network was cut over from Verizon management and connectivity to Frontier. The connectivity was handled mostly gracefully with central offices maintaining connection to the outside world, but Frontier management systems did not adapt to the sudden influx of heterogeneous elements so well, effectively resulting in bad configs being pushed to individual customers and central office equipment.

    There are other aggravating circumstances. The company roughly doubling in size with >10,0000 Verizon employees making the same sudden transition to fundamentally new systems and processes did not help things. Another problem specific to voice is that a large percentage of Verizon fiber customers had migrated to VoIP platforms that Frontier did not have an analogue for (the tiny handful of VoIP fiber customers obtained in 2009-2010 were migrated back to TDM voice). Network management practices had diverged enough in ~7 years that the networks acquired in 2016 were markedly different animals than the 2009-2010 networks. The markets served are also markedly different – Frontier is heavily focused on being a rural to mid-sized city markets; the properties acquired ran the gamut but had an urban focus with different expectations – this may be shading Frontier’s approach to solving the many lingering problems.”

    -end quote

    So this is on Frontier’s end.

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