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DeKALB – Flooding that caused about 80 households in DeKalb to lose telephone service this week came at an inconvenient time for landline service provider Frontier Communications: it has been some customers’ first introduction to the company that took over local phone service from Verizon on July 1.
The service outage was caused by standing water on underground copper cable, Frontier general manager Tom Kuschman said. Since Frontier just inherited the lines about four weeks ago, it couldn’t have prevented the outage, but crews have been working around the clock since Monday in an effort to repair the problem, Kuschman said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there was no estimate on when customers could expect service to be restored.
“There is no good time for that to happen, but this is our business. We know that,” Kuschman said. “We have splicers working 24 hours a day to get those two problem areas back into service.”
The $5.3 billion deal inked July 1 transferred phone lines in 14 states, including Illinois, from Verizon to Frontier. With more than 4 million customers in 27 states, Frontier is now the nation’s largest rural phone service provider, Kuschman said. The company has taken over all of Verizon’s landline services in the area, including local and long-distance phone, high-speed Internet and television. Verizon Wireless customers are not affected.
The move was part of an overall business strategy by Verizon to focus more heavily on wireless and Internet services, Verizon spokesman Bob Varettoni said in an e-mail. The company is concentrating its landline operations on more densely populated markets where it has a stronger fiber optic network, he said.
The sale to Frontier also provided Verizon shareholders with $1.85 per share in Frontier stock and cash, Varettoni said.
Illinois customers should not see any immediate changes in billing or services, Kuschman said, though Frontier is analyzing the business to see where future changes may occur. The company is actively developing new products and services it will begin rolling out to customers as soon as possible, he said.
“Frontier has great knowledge of rural markets,” Kuschman said. “Billing is going to continue as is, though we are hoping to offer new products and services and choices as soon as we can. ... We don’t want to disrupt our customers’ service.”
Frontier is a 30-year-old business headquartered in Stanford, Conn. It employs about 14,000 people, Kuschman said, including about 9,000 employees who came on board as part of the Verizon acquisition. Union employees will continue to work under the same terms they had with Verizon until their contracts expire, Kuschman said, when the contracts will be renegotiated.
“We want to see decision-making for the customers brought down to the technician level,” Kuschman said. “As general manager, I want any employee who has contact with a customer to take ownership of the customer’s issues and solve them.”
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