Frontier Communications pledges smooth transfer of bay area Verizon FiOS and land line services

Frontier’s  Mike Flynn says any interruptions will be brief.
Frontier’s Mike Flynn says any interruptions will be brief.
Published Mar. 31, 2016

TAMPA — The last time Frontier Communications took over the Internet, TV and landline telephone services of another provider, its executives ended up apologizing for a bumpy transition and hundreds of customer complaints.

"We have lessons to learn," Frontier spokeswoman Kathleen Abernathy told Connecticut regulators.

More than a half million Tampa Bay area Verizon FiOS and landline users will become Frontier customers early Friday morning. And Frontier officials pledge that this changeover will go more smoothly.

In 2014, Frontier's acquisition of AT&T's Internet, TV and landline services in Connecticut resulted in a flurry of glitches after the company had promised a seamless transition. Problems included insufficient numbers of trained customer service personnel to handle calls and an incorrect forecast by Frontier of the number of homes technicians could service in a day. The top complaint: interruption of high-speed Internet service. The company offered $10 million in credits to inconvenienced customers.

Frontier officials say they've spent much of the last year preparing for Friday's transfer and are confident it will cause few problems for customers after the lessons of the AT&T transition.

"I would never say we're 100 percent certain it will go perfectly," Mike Flynn, Frontier's regional president overseeing operations in Florida and the Carolinas. "But we're doing everything we can within our power … from the experience we've gleaned from every conversion we have done to make the next one better. So I'd just say we're pretty experienced at it."

He said customers may experience brief service interruptions in the early morning hours Friday, though the company is not expecting that to affect a significant numbers of customers.

Frontier, a Connecticut-based telecom, acquired Verizon's network in Florida, Texas and California for $10.5 billion. Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest mobile phone business, is not being acquired by Frontier.

Existing customers, Flynn said, should notice no changes in their accounts, their bills or even the speed of their Internet service. What a customer paid for service in April will be the same as they paid in March. Contracts remain unchanged, as will channel lineups.

Frontier's acquisition of Verizon's landline and FiOS assets is not the only big telecommunications deal for Tampa Bay residents. Charter Communications' $67 billion acquisition of Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable is expected to soon win the approval of federal regulators, the New York Times has reported. Charter says the deal may be finalized in May.

Frontier's regional office will be based in Tampa, and a national operations center in St. Petersburg will monitor Frontier's network.

The company is retaining Verizon's 3,050 employees in Florida and will add 50 additional jobs locally, and eventually as many as 300 more.

Customers will even be familiar with the name of their service — FiOS by Frontier.

Flynn promises strong local engagement with the community. "We'll be out there," he said. "You'll see us in a lot of different places."

One thing customers will be watching closely is Frontier's customer service, which has traditionally been poor in the industry. Frontier has fared worse in surveys than Verizon.

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But Flynn noted that Frontier's new CEO has made it a priority to improve the customer experience.

"And he's told his leadership team the customer experience is kind of Job One for us," Flynn said. "And we need to focus more energy and excellence there. We think there's room for a company that stands apart and be noted for a finer level of performance for customers. That's where we're headed. Are we there yet? No."

But Frontier officials point out customers who have been happy with Verizon service should take comfort in the fact that the company is inheriting Verizon's entire local customer care team.

Contact William R. Levesque at Follow @Times_Levesque.