Being a Texas Verizon FIOS customer this bothers me quite a bit. We lover our FIOS and I have never heard anything good about Frontier. Texas is a big state, hopefully, my area isn't included in this sale!
Verizon is selling off a big chunk of its wireline customer base, and it's not just the old copper wires that are being separated from the mothership. In a $10.54 billion sale announced today, Frontier will take over a three-state territory covering millions of Verizon customers.
"The operations Frontier will acquire consist of all of Verizons local wireline operating territories in California, Florida and Texas," Verizon's announcement said. "At the end of fourth-quarter 2014, these operations served approximately 3.7 million voice connections; approximately 2.2 million high-speed data customers, including approximately 1.6 million FiOS Internet customers; and approximately 1.2 million FiOS Video customers."
"The transaction includes Verizons FiOS Internet and Video customers, switched and special access lines, as well as its high-speed Internet service and long-distance voice accounts in these three states. Frontier will continue to provide video services in these states after the completion of the transaction," Verizon said.
The FiOS fiber-to-the-home service is a lot more desirable financially than Verizon's old copper telephone and DSL network, and not as heavily regulated. But selling both makes the deal more attractive to Frontier. With a smaller territory, Verizon will focus its wireline operations on the East Coast and rely more on its lucrative nationwide cellular business.
The companies are trying to complete the transaction in the first half of 2016. How many wireline customers will Verizon have left after the sale?
"As of the end of fourth-quarter 2014, the consumer and mass business wireline operations that Verizon is retaining provided service in nine states and the District of Columbia and had approximately 16.1 million wireline voice connections; 7.0 million high-speed data customers, including approximately 5.1 million FiOS Internet customers; and 4.5 million FiOS Video customers," Verizon said. "The states in Verizons contiguous consumer wireline footprint are Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington, DC."
11,000 Verizon employees will transfer to Frontier if the transaction is approved.
Verizon dramatically slowed down its fiber builds in recent years, leaving many copper customers without the ability to upgrade. We've asked Frontier if it plans to convert any Verizon copper customers to fiber but haven't heard back yet. (UPDATE: A Frontier spokesperson said, "its still too early to make any of those decisions. More to follow over the next year and a half.")
"These properties align with Frontiers disciplined strategic focus and enhance our footprint with rich fiber-based assets," Frontier CEO Maggie Wilderotter said in the announcement.
Frontier already has "four FiOS markets today from our 2010 transaction with Verizon, and a high level of familiarity with the systems underlying these properties," the company said in its own announcement.
Frontier recently paid $2 billion to buy AT&T's wireline operations in Connecticut, but customers were not happy after the transition left many without service.
Separately, Verizon struck a deal to sell and lease cellular towers to American Tower Corporation. American Tower will lease 11,300 towers from Verizon and buy 165 outright, "for a total upfront payment of approximately $5 billion," Verizon said. This transaction should close earlier than the Frontier one, by mid-2015.
Verizon lost $2.23 billion in its most recent quarter and committed to spend $10.4 billion in an auction of wireless airwaves last month. Besides the wireline and cell tower sales, Verizon has one more transaction designed to please investors.
"Verizon is returning a significant amount of capital to its shareholders through a $5 billion accelerated share-repurchase program entered into today," the company said.