Business as usual so far for Frontier’s proposed takeover of Verizon’s Californian landlines

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Round up the usual suspects.

The proposed takeover of Verizon’s wireline broadband, telephone and video systems in California by Frontier Communications hasn’t attracted an unusual amount of opposition yet. That’s not to say there’s no opposition, just that it’s mostly coming from the usual groups making the usual objections.

Three consumer advocacy groups – TURN, the Center for Accessible Technology and the Greenlining Institute – generally said the companies hadn’t provided enough information to the California Public Utilities Commission, which has to approve the deal. Well, yeah. The first filing just sets out the case the companies intend to make as the review moves forward. The groups are really just saying 1. there’s a lot of work to be done and 2. Frontier will have to be held to a different standard if it goes from having a 100,000 customers in California to more than 2 million. But it does stake their claim for eventual compensation from either the companies or the CPUC for their efforts.

The Communications Workers of America – the primary telco union in the state – responded. It’s not available online yet, but the fact that a union filed comments and labeled them as a “protest” pretty much tells the story. Cox Communications and a lobbying group for competitive local exchange carriers want Frontier to do at least as well as Verizon, and preferably better, in providing them with wholesale telephone services.

The CPUC’s office of ratepayer advocates (ORA), on the other hand, didn’t spill much ink rehashing the obvious but instead focused on the broadband aspects of the deal. In particular, it set out the case for the commission to establish its authority – largely drawn from federal law – to regulate broadband infrastructure and service in California. ORA drew a clear connection between the Frontier buyout and the dearly departed Comcast mega-merger.

It could eventually result in requirements that Frontier upgrade Verizon’s decaying copper systems, which ORA too generously describes as “suspect”, noting “there exists ample evidence to suggest that Verizon California has not adequately maintained its landline networks”.

Commissioner Catherine Sandoval – the lead commissioner assigned to the case – has already said she intends to conduct public workshops in Verizon’s service territory around that state, as part of the official enquiry into the deal.

Update 1 May 2015: the CWA protest was posted, it’s as I expected, but see for yourself.