Sunday, June 17, 2018
Business

Bay area complaints about Frontier wane, though some still report problems

TAMPA — Scrutiny by the state Attorney General's Office appears to be working in favor of Frontier Communications customers, with complaints about Internet, cable and landline interruptions tapering off.

Nonetheless, it hasn't been totally smooth sailing this summer for the Norwalk, Conn., telecommunications company, which had a miserable launch when it took over Verizon's Florida services on April 1. A number of customers continue to complain of outages or other service issues.

The Attorney General's Office said investigators in its Tampa Consumer Protection Division have been in daily contact with Frontier, forwarding complaints it receives to the company and following up on the status of existing complaints.

The office in Tallahassee said it received 1,675 complaints about Frontier in May, 502 in June and 131 so far in July.

The conversations with the Attorney General's Office and creation of an "action plan" in May "certainly helped us get focused," said Frontier spokesman Bob Elek. "Not that we weren't, but you never want to have that kind of attention. We don't want the attorney general to think poorly of Frontier, and we don't want our customers to think poorly of Frontier. We think we have made good progress."

A number of customers remain dissatisfied with the telecommunications company.

Doug Erwin, vice president of Tampa's Erwin Electric, said his company's service was restored Monday night after a four-day outage, the company's third since May 2. Erwin has contracts with Tampa General Hospital and Tampa International Airport, among other businesses and residential customers.

"When those people need to get a hold of us, what they're getting is a fast busy signal. It's very important for them to be able to reach us," Erwin said.

Employees worked around the outages with personal cellphones and using social media. Erwin said it was difficult to quantify how much business might have been lost. "I can't be having outages like these," he said.

Kevin Pizzarello, a marketing executive in the aerospace industry who works from his home in Sarasota, said Frontier hasn't responded to numerous chat line and voice messages to fix a glitch in his voicemail system. "I've been so burned out, I haven't given it any attention for the last three weeks," Pizzarello said. "The whole thing is ridiculous."

Attorney General Pam Bondi intervened after the flood of early complaints. Spokeswoman Kylie Mason said after an initial meeting in May, the Attorney General's Office has had three additional meetings with company representatives to go over the company's progress. That initial meeting led to the creation of the action plan that promised bill credits for customers with service outages, use of a U.S.-based call center as the first response team, and establishment of a special residential customer care phone number.

"Our investigators continue to work closely with company representatives to ensure that the company is addressing these complaints in a timely and appropriate manner," said Mason. Customers who continue to have problems "should contact our office and file a complaint so we can follow up with the company," she said.

Frontier acquired Verizon's Internet, cable and landline services in a $10.5 billion deal announced last year. Verizon's cellphone business was not part of the deal.

Meanwhile, Charter Communications of Stamford, Conn., closed a $55.1 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and its Bright House Networks brand, Tampa Bay's biggest Internet and TV provider, in May.

Charter promised a slow, methodical takeover. The company appears to be avoiding any widespread problems with the conversion, although there was an intermittent interruption of voice services Tuesday that affected a section of Tampa Heights, including the Ulele restaurant.

Joe Durkin, Charter's Florida spokesman, said the event was a hardware issue and lasted about four hours before engineers identified and corrected the issue.

"Charter's acquisition of Bright House Networks has been progressing very smoothly behind the scenes," Durkin said. "In the coming months our customers will learn more of the Spectrum brand and improvements that we are working on to enhance their voice, video and high-speed Internet experiences."

Contact Jerome R. Stockfisch at [email protected]

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