Frontier Communications to take over Verizon landlines, internet, and TV service.
Frontier Communications has made an offer to take over all the landlines, internet and TV service from Verizon California, but not Verizon Wireless. The estimated $10.6 billion transaction will affect 2.2 million Verizon subscribers in addition to customers in Florida and Texas.
A new provider could mean better internet service for Inyo and Mono counties.
Bill Johnston, Jr., Ph.D., telecommunications advisor for the Office of Commissioner Catherine J. K. Sandoval and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said there is a need to get broadband extended into rural areas of the state for agriculture and business opportunities. High-speed and reliable internet could allow people to work from home or outside the service sector realm that dominates the market in vacationland or farm jobs in the pasture lands. “These are all reason we want to get broadband extended,” Dr. Johnston said.
Before the phone service can pass from Verizon to Frontier, the California Public Utilities Commission is holding public hearings in affected areas statewide to discuss what the change will mean to customers and to gather input about Verizon’s current service.
A meeting to hear from both Inyo and Mono Counties is set for August 21 at 4 p.m. in Mammoth Lakes’ Town Council Chambers, Suite Z, on Old Mammoth Road. An informational workshop will follow.
This is the only opportunity to address the Commission with concerns about Verizon service in Mono County without going to San Francisco, said Mono County Supervisor Fred Stump. He encouraged the public to attend.
Pictures of Verizon facilities in the area “but which are too distant for our travel, please bring those to the hearing. Your personal commentary on any photographs you provide is welcome,” Dr. Johnston stated in an email. “Photos should have labels identifying the location and time. We are interested in everything having to do with Verizon’s provision of service —or failure to provision service—in your area on our transcript.”
The meeting in Mammoth will be the last of 11 meetings held throughout the state. Regionally, the CPUC will be taking a close look at “the status of the network after recent fires [Round Fire] and the success or failure to take advantage of the Digital 395 Fiber Project,” Dr. Johnston said.
In the 11 affected service areas the Commission has previously held public meetings, internet service provided by Verizon is one of the biggest complaints. This is with the exception of Claremont, which has access to FiOS, a fiber optic network that is unavailable in the 11 areas that include Santa Clara, Agua Caliente, Long Beach, Santa Barbara, Ridgecrest, Inyo and Mono counties, and several Northern California Native American reservations.
Stump said in an email, “While Dr. Johnston and I were speaking he was having trouble hearing me on my cell phone. He remarked that poor cell service would also be appropriate to mention before the Commission. Internet availability can also be addressed.”
Another major issue brought up at prior meetings is what the change will mean for Verizon employees. Johnston said Frontier and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union have come to an agreement that CWA seems comfortable with, according to Johnston. He added that Frontier said it will “run a union shop.”
Frontier has also said that it will not outsource jobs to other countries, so no customer service calls with people from India.
Verizon has been interested in cutting loose its landlines for years, said Dr. Johnston. He said this is evident by the telecommunications company’s disinterest in upgrading aging lines dating back to the GTE and Contel facilities from the 1980s. Verizon has also been slow to connect to the Digital 395 network, a high-speed fiber optic internet cable that parallels Highway 395.
Dr. Johnston said the CPUC hearings give the Commissioners a chance to hear about issues or complaints about Verizon and its service and what customers can expect from Frontier. It also gives Frontier an idea of what it’s getting itself into, Dr. Johnston added.
Frontier has a small footprint in the State, a concern to some at public meetings, Dr. Johnston said. He added that Frontier representatives will be at the meetings to address concerns.
Frontier currently operates in mostly rural areas in 28 states and has more more than 3 million residential and business customers.
The process began on March 18, 2015, when Verizon California and Frontier Communications submitted an application to the CPUC. More information on the application is available at www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/documents/proceedings.htm.
The Federal Communications Commission is conducting a separate investigation before approving the transition, most of which is not made public, nor is it accepting public comment. Dr. Johnston said the Department of Justice will look for any possible anti-trust violations.
There was no word on when the transition would be approved.