TAMPA — The already intense competition among Tampa Bay's TV, Internet and landline phone providers is becoming particularly brutal with Frontier Communication's glitch-ridden takeover of Verizon's assets in the region.
Frontier's biggest competitor locally, Bright House Networks, is offering to cover the early-termination fee — up to $240 — that Frontier charges customers if they walk out on their service contract and jump to Bright House.
Frontier, based in Stamford, Conn., confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times last week that it would insist on enforcing customer contracts even in cases in which someone has experienced a lengthy service outage. Some customers have reported a loss of service of up to two weeks.
Not that Frontier isn't offering a few perks for customers' continued allegiance. In some cases, the telecommunications company has offered several free months of service to keep folks from switching. Frontier also is offering a prorated discount to monthly bills for customers who have suffered an outage.
Joe Durkin, a Bright House spokesman, said his company's offer, which was put into place last week, was meant to give relief to "Frontier customers at wit's end."
"There has been an avalanche of phone calls of people calling asking how soon can we connect," said Durkin, noting customers will not have to enter into a contract to make the switch.
Frontier officials said they don't take particular umbrage at Bright House's tactic and note that it is a competitive market where providers fight hard to keep customers.
"I'm not in a position to complain or tell them they can't do that," said Frontier spokesman Bob Elek, "I've seen this pop up elsewhere in my 17-year career."
Elek notes that the vast majority of Frontier's approximately 535,000 customers in Tampa Bay and the region are experiencing no problems. He said less than half of one percent had service issues, which is fewer than 2,675 customers.
Bright House should expect no favors from its competitor if its pending merger with Charter Communications comes to pass. That deal may be finalized within the next two months, according to media reports.
Will Frontier return the favor to Bright House should its own merger prove problematic?
"The only thing I can say to that is, you can always expect Frontier to be an aggressive competitor," Elek said.
Contact William R. Levesque at (813) 226-3432 or [email protected] Follow @Times_Levesque.