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Frontier assesses first year in state

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By Mike Benbow
Herald Writer
EVERETT -- It's been a year since Frontier Communications bought Verizon's landline phone business in Washington state, and a lot has happened, general manager Ken Baldwin said Wednesday.
Since taking over as Snohomish County's landline phone company in July 2010, the company has:
•Brought high-speed Internet access to 25,000 new customers in Washington state.
Hired 50 new customer service representatives and plans to hire 75 more this fall.
Made some changes in its installation, pricing and customer service process.
Invested about $8 million in technology and approved plans to spend $12 million before the end of the year.
Developed a fundraising partnership with the Red Cross of Snohomish County and several other charities.
Changed its focus on video services.
Baldwin said the company has boosted high-speed Internet access in more populous areas and continues to bring broadband to less-populated places. He said broadband service was recently added to the Camano Island, Lake Bosworth and Lake Roesiger areas.
The company can't improve its facilities and fiber network quickly enough, Baldwin said.
"If we build it, people use it," he said. "It's not if we build it, they will come. It's if we build it, they're there.
"We have to look at continuing to push that."
Baldwin said that the huge increase in wireless devices also boosts the company's wired network because companies use it to support wireless operations and individuals will increasingly look for ways to limit the cost of using their cell phones.
"The pipe is filling up so fast," he said, noting the fastest-growing part of the companies business is connecting to cell towers.
Frontier is also focused on improving customer service and on providing its customers with a variety of new products and services, Baldwin said.
Stephanie Beasley, Frontier's communications manager, noted that it has switched to a system where customer service representatives are trained to help people with all of their questions or problems.
"We've made a concerted effort to eliminate a lot of the phone tree," she said.
She said the company has also moved to a two-hour service window, so that people don't have to wait all day or half a day for someone to show up. And she said installers now hook up all of your equipment and can show you how to use it.
"We also have our techs put boooties on their shoes so they don't leave any marks in your home," she said.
The company has partnered with Red Cross and provides money when people buy certain services. It's also working with Little League to help equip teams and has attended about 80 community festivals and events this year.
Also during the year, the company decided that its television service wasn't big enough to support the growing cost of television services and networks.
It partnered with DirectTV to provide the service to customers.
Beasley said Frontier recently shifted to Dish Network, saying its the leader in that technology and a better fit. She said Frontier will begin to sell Dish in the second quarter of 2012 while continuing to honor all of its DirectTV contracts.
"We're looking at technology and we expect to come out with more options and choices (for video)," she said.
Baldwin said Frontier is not getting out of the video business.
"We're here to stay," he said. "Video in the home is not what it used to be."
Story tags » Major Locally Based Company



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