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BREAKING NEWS: Frontier Officially Abandons Caps; Will Go On Marketing Attack to Sign New Customers

Phillip Dampier April 5, 2009 Frontier, Time Warner Cable 19 Comments

exclusiveStoptheCap! has learned that Frontier Communications will officially pull the rug out from under Time Warner and announce it will not be imposing any usage caps or rationing plans in the metropolitan Rochester (area code 585) service area, giving the DSL provider a potential competitive advantage in the area.  The company still reserves the right to revisit the matter should their network be completely overwhelmed, but company officials also stated that they are fully equipped to handle the traffic they are getting now.

A well informed source within Frontier told StoptheCap! a company memo is being circulated to educate customer service representatives about the decision and answer questions from potential customers switching from Road Runner. This may have come in response to a bonanza of new subscribers Frontier is picking up this week from customers canceling Road Runner service. Company officials are internally considering a new marketing campaign to blitz Rochester area residents with information about Road Runner’s punitive caps, and that Frontier will not be imposing those caps on its customers.

There has been speculation that one of the reasons Rochester was chosen as a “test city” for the Road Runner rationing plan was because of last summer’s attempt by Frontier to impose its own usage cap, of just 5GB per month. Rochester is the only major city in New York that is not being wired by Verizon for its FIOS – fiber to the home broadband service, which does not have any usage caps. Time Warner officials may have presumed that with their draconian usage caps, Frontier would be free to reintroduce their own still leaving Time Warner with a market advantage. Frontier’s decision to the contrary is a potential game changer in the Flower City.

But in a move that StoptheCap! applauds, Frontier Communications has decided this opens a unique opportunity for the company to not only regain a stronger position in the local broadband market, but also bring back its important traditional telephone line business. Frontier has reported a growing number of people disconnecting traditional telephone service in favor of voice-over-IP services like Vonage or Time Warner’s Digital Phone service. Most customers who sign up with Frontier for multiple services choose a bundled package including telephone and broadband. The company will also continue to promote its Price Protection Agreement, which guarantees no usage caps or price increases for a term of two or three years, at the customer’s choice.

Frontier has also distributed a memo to employees that the company no longer feels their network is being challenged by ‘overuse,’ but continues to express concern about the potential for deteriorating customer broadband experience in the future. We understand that, and suggest Frontier educate their customers about the impact certain applications might have on their network, such as running torrent servers 24/7, trying to run commercial web servers on a residential account, etc. However, company officials must also be aware that with a flood of new customers will naturally come increasing demand, so they need to prepare now for the potential exodus from Time Warner. It also remains the responsibility of every ISP to recognize the revolutionary growth of the Internet, and continue to make investments in new technology which can deliver more bandwidth.  The cost for that bandwidth continues to decline, so punitive rate hikes and caps are simply not justified. Hopefully, Frontier will make their customers partners in their decision-making, and treat us with the respect Time Warner can’t be bothered with.

Some pertinent FAQ information Frontier has now released to their customer service representatives:

Q: Does Frontier charge for internet consumption?
A: No, Frontier does not charge for usage. Customers pay a flat fee per month that provides them a true High-Speed Internet Connection, up to 10 MB in Rochester.

Q: When does the Time Warner Network Consumption Pricing begin?
A: Like you, we only have knowledge based upon the recent press.

Q: Does this apply to Residential Only, or does it include Commercial?
A: We have not heard them say that anyone was excluded.

Q: What is a “bandwidth cap” and what does it mean for me?
A: Caps are thresholds placed by Time Warner so their Customers will be charged at different levels of usage on their network. Bandwidth caps generally track the total amount of GigaByte usage that is downloaded and uploaded to the Internet by a household during a specific period of time, like a billing cycle. Press reports indicate that Time Warner will charge $1 for every GB above their cap.

Q: Has Frontier changed its Acceptable Usage Policy this year?
A: No.

Q: If I buy my Internet service from Frontier, will the Price Protection include consumption pricing?
A: At this time, Frontier has no plan to provide consumption pricing.

Some answers to questions Frontier doesn’t know the answers to: The official start date for the Time Warner Rationing Plan is November 1, 2009 in Rochester, N.Y.  Prior to that date, you will not be charged for excessive use.  This plan only impacts residential customers.  Business customers are not being metered.  Frontier is legally hedging their bets in the wording of their statements here.  So a few words here and there might appear to be “weasel words” that leave the door open, but that will be for legal reasons.  We will continue to monitor Frontier and keep them honest.  They have had a track record of changing their minds on things.  But if caps are your primary concern, the current best protection you have against them is a Frontier DSL account with a Price Protection Agreement in place.  Please review our article on choosing an alternative provider for more specifics.

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Currently there are 19 comments on this Article:

  1. Mazakman says:

    OK, so it all sounds good. So for now, we sit tight here and wait. Time Warner’s response should be interesting. I will refrain from switching back to Frontier until the fat lady sings. LOL. As I said elsewhere, my only complaint about my Frontier experience early last year was the latency that we experienced on the first and second hops when running a tracert. The speed we had was adequate and they had RR beat big time on the upload. I shall not hesitate to call Frontier IF Time Warner insists still on imposing their archaic limits on us.

    • phil says:

      My prediction is that there will be no immediate response from Time Warner regarding this. The original decision to impose this cap was not a local one, it came from corporate headquarters. My guess is the only response they are going to pay attention to is mass cancellations, and for more than just broadband. The more revenue you deny Time Warner, the more their profit takes a hit. If you have Digital Phone from them, time to move somewhere else (their pricing was never that good anyway). Time to drop those pay channels, which are highly profitable. Time to start looking elsewhere for broadband and potentially even video.

      The exodus away from Frontier last summer over their usage cap, and all the negative press they got, was what stalled that 5GB cap from ever becoming effective. Petitions and such are gratifying emotionally, but honestly in all my years of dealing with this industry, and I’ve been involved in this since the late 1980s, they’ve never actually made any difference. They can help draw helpful press attention, but the only effective means of forcing these companies to change their minds is to see people take their business elsewhere and legislators and regulators getting involved.

  2. Jim says:

    I agree Phil. Here is what I wrote to the execs earlier this morning. I held off a few days to put my thoughts together.

    I am saddened to have to write this email in the first place, yet here I find myself drafting it on a Sunday afternoon over 13 years first becoming a Road Runner customer during the test site days. I realize that this email will likely fall on deaf ears at Time Warner Corporate, but I am performing due diligence in writing it. I have been a staunch advocate for TWC over the years. I do a tremendous amount of freelance consulting for local companies, primarily in the dental and orthodontic fields and every time I came across a “Lightning Link” customer, I urged them to transition to RR Business Class or RR for their homes. I have migrated well over 100 households in the last 8 years or so in the Rochester area away from the sub-standard service provided by other ISP’s, a standard set by you. Yet here I sit writing this letter to you after having just mass mailed all of my clients both at their homes and at their offices encouraging them to drop Road Runner as their ISP and move to Frontier if your metered bandwidth proposal makes it past the test phase. Why? It is not because it is faster or more reliable but rather because of the greed play that started the second you decided to make Rochester, NY a “test site”. See, it is people like me, those that homes and business look to for IT advice, setting up their networks, their devices and their online lives that you are going to see the mass exodus of your customer base as a result of. The users utilize Mozy or Carbonite for their backups, they have Nintendo’s Wii’s or Xbox 360′s, they have 2-3 PC’s, a Slingbox, Vonage, use Skype and iTunes. This is your bread and butter customer. They are somewhat tech savvy once the technology is enabled for them. They have started watching Netflix movies online, have just learned about Hulu or have started using LogMeIn or GoToMyPC to connect to their offices after hours where they have RR Business Class. In a time when you should by moving forward to DOCSIS 3.0 and enabling more households to do more and be providing the platform for a city that you have no competition in to get that work done, you have instead decided to play the greed card and hamper innovation and progression.

    We all have to make decisions and after 13+ years of being a loyal customer, I hope you realize that by alienating customers like me, you are alienating everyone who looks to us for their technical questions, needs and purchasing decisions both on a personal and professional level and if this metering program actually makes it to implementation, it is customers like me that will ensure that you lose as much of your customer base as possible simply because I cannot be an advocate for a service that is no longer then best option for internet service in Rochester, NY.

    • Matt says:

      Nice, Jim. That letter hits it on the head.

      I’m extremely relieved that Frontier is doing the smart thing here.

  3. Hey, does anyone know how to find out how far it is from my house to Frontier’s nearest central office, or whatever that distance is that would impact my DSL performance? I attempted to find it on their website, to no avail.

  4. Dave says:

    Just to be clear – this is for the Rochester market only? And as far as is known, they still intend to introduce caps in other markets?

    In my area (Eastern panhandle of WV) the only competition at all is Comcast, and that is only around the towns. For most, Frontier is the only wired provider.

  5. Jay says:

    I also live in Rochester, and I found out some information on the phone when I called TWC last evening to add the MLB package I buy every year.

    First off, the representative told me the usage caps will be applied to NEW customers who sign-up for Road Runner service only. Existing customers, and customers who subscribe to both cable AND RR, will be unaffected.

    This is how, I believe, TWC is claiming that “86% of our customers at least have nothing to worry about,” Alex Dudley said, “That’s the percentage of customers that will be left unaffected by the trial.”

    While I am somewhat relieved to learn this since I use both cable and road runner services, it is, none the less, disconcerting. It may be that TWC is trying to enable the caps with a minimum of backlash so it can show to all the other carriers the caps were successfully enabled with a minimum of customer outrage.

    Give them an inch and they’ll surely take us for a mile later on.

    We need to fight this with all available resources.

    Excellent letter, Jim. You made some excellent points in there.

    • phil says:

      This is entirely different from the information we have heard about this. It was supposed to be applied to EVERYONE. If this was for new customers only, that would have been a major point for them to raise in their press blitz, and this is the first I am hearing about this. Beaumont was for new customers only, but that trial was supposed to be expanded to everyone down there as well.

      I have no time to sit with TW on hold right now. Can several folks with accounts give them a call at 756-5000 and:

      1) Complain about caps again, just for good measure.
      2) Ask if it applies to new customers or to all customers.

      If they say new customers, if you can inquire how they learned that and who at the business office can confirm it, that would be great.

      As we learned with Frontier last summer, these companies can and do flip flop and change their minds on things based on push back from angry customers. My first impression is that this CSR is off script and is incorrect, but if this represents some policy shift that these people got a memo on earlier today, we absolutely need to know about it. I will not be satisfied personally even if they shift their response to indicate “new customers only.” A cap is a cap that needs to be fought, whether it personally affects you or not.

      You can reply here with your findings. I need to go do my power walk. I have been on the phone or typing on this stuff all day.

    • Jeffrey_Bays says:

      NO! They are either lying or they have been mis-speaking through their press outlets. In each of the test markets, they will be implementing caps – regardless of how much of their crap service you subscribe to. The only people unaffected will be people that are UNDER A CONTRACT. Even those in promotional deals will be capped.

      QUOTE : First off, the representative told me the usage caps will be applied to NEW customers who sign-up for Road Runner service only. Existing customers, and customers who subscribe to both cable AND RR, will be unaffected.

  6. phil says:

    Right now, the information I have is local to just Rochester. The Democrat & Chronicle coverage seems to imply it might be for all of their service areas. What you can do is call Frontier, and if they start reading the script similar to the one I put in the original article, it means they have no immediate plan for a cap in your area either.

    One thing I learned last summer, however, what works competitively in Rochester may not be the same in more rural, captive communities where there is only one wired provider. I am a strong proponent of rural broadband choice, and I am always concerned about rural residents being given a second class broadband service just because no competitor is available to challenge that. We may have to approach this from a regulatory position, however, unless government incentives to expand broadband into more rural communities comes with strings attached to ensure speed, pricing, and availability are fair and equitable. I’m watching your back on this issue as well, cap or no cap.

  7. Mazakman says:

    Interesting information Jay. We need to dig this out and find out if this is true or not… the part about the caps only applying to new customers. But even if this is true, this needs to be stopped also.

  8. Danny Gibas says:

    Jay, I think you got bad information on that. I have spoken to two reps at TW so far, and both have told me the caps apply to new and existing customers alike. I think they were feeding you a link of crap. Call them back and ask again, see if that answer changes.

    • phil says:

      You gotta love “customer retention.” Say anything to keep the customer from pulling the plug. Sometimes they’ll give you a $10 inconvenience credit. That makes me feel so much better. ;-)

  9. Dan says:

    Clever bumper stickers here:

    http://thayerdesign.myshopify.com/products/nickel-dime-warner-sticker

    Maybe give the company itself a little more negative PR.

  10. Mazakman says:

    A link posted at DSLReports thread on the caps…

    http://www.timewarnercable.com/GoldenTriangle/learn/hso/roadrunner/selectplan/default.html

    I think that this is a California RR site ?







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