PUCO wants hearings on Verizon merger

Published 11:04 pm Saturday, August 22, 2009

CHESAPEAKE — A statewide consumer advocacy group applauds a recent ruling by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio concerning a proposed merger between Verizon Communications Inc. and Frontier Communications Inc.

Verizon provides phone service to 435,000 customers in the state, including those in Chesapeake and near the Jackson-Lawrence County line.

“We had questions and wanted it scrutinized,” said Ryan Lippe, senior communications specialist for the Ohio Consumers Counsel, about the proposal.

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On Wednesday the PUCO made an entry requesting that there be three local public hearings concerning the merger.

Their locations have not been announced. The OCC had suggested 11 public hearings, including one in Portsmouth.

“The OCC is pleased the PUCO did not approve the proposed merger and wants to hear from customers through local public hearings,” Lippe said. “While the specifics of the local hearings have not been announced, we will encourage Frontier and Verizon customers to participate and express their opinions.”

In the first part of May Frontier, based in Stamford, Conn., and Verizon, based in New York City, agreed to allow Frontier to acquire almost 5 million access lines from Verizon in a deal worth just under $10 billion.

If approved, it would create the largest rural communications service provider.

Among the services from the company, to be called SpinCo., will be broadband, new bundled services and improved technologies to customers.

The PUCO also requested the phone giants make additional filings on the merger, including addressing the question of the kind of service the merger would result in.

“They paid specific attention to what the OCC addressed and that was service quality,” Lippe said.