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Telcos Pile Up Debt From Mergers & Acquisitions While Stalling Fiber Upgrades

Spending priorities: mergers & acquisitions, not upgrades.

Since 2012, two of the country’s largest phone companies spent enough money — $281.4 billion — to wire at least three-quarters of the  nation with fiber-to-the-home service and deliver vastly improved rural internet access to the rest of the country. Instead of doing that, AT&T and Verizon used the money to buy their competitors and content creators including AOL and Yahoo.

A 2017 Deloitte Consulting analysis estimates the United States will need between $130 and $150 billion in investment over the next 5–7 years to upgrade at least 75% of homes and businesses to fiber to the home service, with the remaining 25% serviced by technologies including 5G that are capable of delivering broadband speeds greater than the federal minimum standard of 25/3 Mbps.

AT&T could almost deliver the country a major broadband upgrade all by itself, having spent $138 billion on mergers and acquisitions in the past six years. Verizon could have easily handled the entire cost, but instead spent its $143.4 billion on business deals, including $130 billion to buy out former Verizon Wireless partner Vodafone. Among independent phone companies, things look equally bad. Frontier Communications is saddled with so much debt after acquiring former AT&T customers in Connecticut and Verizon customers in more than a dozen states, it has been forced to suspend its shareholder dividend and has been only able to make token investments in network upgrades for its mostly copper wire infrastructure in its original “legacy” service areas and a mixture of copper and fiber in acquired service areas. Both CenturyLink and Windstream have refocused many of their business activities on the commercial services marketplace, including the sale of hosting, business IT services, and cloud server networks.

More recently, both AT&T and Verizon have raced into content company acquisitions, buying up AOL, Yahoo, and Time Warner to offer their respective customers additional content. The phone companies are diversifying their business interests away from simply offering phone lines and internet access. At the same time, many of these acquisitions are depleting resources that could be spent on critical network upgrades.

The article in Light Reading claims the telecom industry’s traditional financial model of borrowing money to build networks and upgrade others is broken, because telecom companies now prefer to spend money acquiring other companies instead. Although AT&T has, in recent years, been more aggressive than Verizon in deploying fiber to home service, both companies have resisted committing large amounts of capital to a territory-wide fiber buildout, preferring to spend smaller sums to incrementally upgrade their networks in selected areas over the next decade. But the merger and acquisition teams at both companies are far less cautious, given the go ahead to pay handsomely for companies that often have little to do with providing telephone or internet service.

Light Reading reports AT&T’s debt climbed from $59 billion in 2010 to $126 billion at the end of 2017. Verizon’s debt increased from $45 billion to $114 billion. But those acquisitions have done little to attract new customers. Both companies’ operating cash flows have barely budged — $39 billion annually at AT&T (up from $35 billion) and Verizon’s actually declined from $33 billion in 2010 to $25 billion in 2017.

Mergers and Acquisitions (2011-2018)

AT&T

  • 2012: AT&T buys $1.93 billion worth of spectrum from Qualcomm.
  • 2013: AT&T buys Leap Wireless (Cricket) for $1.2 billion.
  • 2014: AT&T pays $49 billion for the DirectTV, issuing $17.5 billion in debt in April.
  • 2015: AT&T buys out assets from bankrupt Mexican wireless business of NII Holdings for around $1.875 billion.
  • 2018: AT&T pays $207 million to acquire FiberTower.
  • 2018: AT&T is cleared to merge with Time Warner in a deal valued at more than $84 billion.

Verizon

  • 2011: Verizon acquires Terremark for $1.4 billion.
  • 2014: Verizon buys out Vodafone’s 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless, valued at $130 billion, with a mixture of stock and debt.
  • 2015: Verizon buys AOL for a deal valued around $4.4 billion.
  • 2017: Verizon acquires Yahoo Internet assets for $4.5 billion.
  • 2017: Verizon buys spectrum holder Straight Path Communications for $3.1 billion roughly double rival AT&T’s offer, to build up 5G spectrum and footprint.

The more debt (and debt payments) that pile up at the two companies, the less money will be available to spend on fiber upgrades. In fact, there is evidence these companies are hoping to further cut costs in their core landline network operations. Some regulators have noticed. Verizon was forced to make a deal with New York regulators requiring the company to spend millions replacing failing copper-based facilities and upgrade them to fiber and remove or replace tens of thousands of deteriorated utility poles. Verizon faced similar action in Pennsylvania.

AT&T has spent millions lobbying the federal government to permanently decommission rural America’s landline network and replace it with a wireless alternative, while also working to replace the current regulated telephone network with deregulated alternatives like internet and Voice over IP phone service.

Wall Street analysts have occasionally questioned or at least expressed surprise over some of the phone companies’ odd acquisitions:

  • Verizon acquired Terremark to beef up its cloud-based and server-hosting businesses. But shortly after acquiring the company, Verizon began replacing top management, sometimes repeatedly, and ultimately divested itself of its data center portfolio, including Terremark, just five years later.
  • AT&T bought DirecTV to help it reduce wholesale TV programming expenses for its U-verse TV subscribers. But DirecTV has lost more than one million satellite TV customers since AT&T acquired it in 2014, despite new marketing efforts to convince would-be U-verse TV customers to choose DirecTV instead.
  • Verizon saw value in web brands that were major players more than 18 years ago but are mostly afterthoughts today. The company spent almost $9 billion to acquire Yahoo and AOL, and their low quality content portfolios, which rely heavily on clickbait headlines, advertiser-sponsored content, and articles designed to maximize mouse clicks to boost the number of ads you see.

“The telcos are trying to diversify into content when they should instead be focused on their core business — building networks and charging for value-added technology,” said Scott Raynovich, founder and principal analyst at Futuriom. “It’s clear they see content as part of the value-add but customers so far don’t seem to be reacting that way. It’s clear they are allergic to paying higher prices for bundled content.”

AT&T and Verizon’s customers are not clamoring for more content deals. When surveyed, most want better internet service at more affordable prices.

Spectrum Enters the Wireless Business on June 30; Pricing Mirrors XFINITY Mobile

Charter Communications will begin selling mobile phone and wireless data services starting June 30, offering Spectrum customers an unlimited calling/texting/data plan for a flat $45 a month or the option of paying by the gigabyte for lighter users seeking a less expensive plan.

A source familiar with Charter’s wireless plans told DSL Reports the new service will be called “Spectrum Mobile,” and is part of the company’s foray into a wireless business currently dominated by AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

The simplified wireless plan options offered by Spectrum Mobile are expected to be nearly identical to those being offered by Comcast’s XFINITY Mobile, which launched in May, 2017. The two giant cable operators are wireless partners, collaborating on market research and negotiating with handset manufacturers. Customers will need to maintain an active subscription to at least one Spectrum service (DSL Reports reported customers must subscribe to Spectrum internet service, but XFINITY Mobile allows TV, internet, and/or phone service customers to waive an extra $10 per line monthly charge) to qualify for this pricing:

By the Gig ($12/GB):

  • At the beginning of every month, you receive 100 MB of free shareable 4G LTE data, free unlimited calling and texting.
  • Gigabytes are $12 each, and data is shared across all lines on your account that are using By the Gig.
  • You’ll be charged by rounding up your data usage to the next GB at the end of each billing cycle. This means that if you use 2.2 GB of data, you’ll be charged for 3 GB, or $36. Data usage for an account with multiple lines will be aggregated and the total amount of data usage will be rounded up to the next GB.
  • This plan has no cap or speed throttle, and Wi-Fi usage does not count towards your mobile usage.

“Unlimited Data” (20 GB of 4G LTE data for a flat rate of $45 per line)

  • Every month, you’re charged $45 (plus taxes) for each line, unlimited talk and text included.
  • “Unlimited data” means 20 GB of 4G LTE data at full speed. After 20 GB, download and upload speeds will be reduced to 1.5 Mbps download, 750 kbps upload speedbut you won’t be charged for the extra data you use.
  • Wi-Fi data usage does not count toward your 20 GB allowance.

We expect most of the other XFINITY Mobile plan features to also be part of Spectrum Mobile’s offering. XFINITY Mobile claims its customers save up to $400 a year. Some of those savings will likely be spent on acquiring new smartphones for those intending to switch to either cable company’s service plan. Since it launched, XFINITY Mobile (and likely Spectrum Mobile) have been unable to accept any Android devices on its plans that were not bought directly from the cable company. iPhone owners have it easier, with the iPhone 5 to the iPhone X compatible for “bring your own device” transfers as long as the device was acquired for use on a CDMA network (Sprint or Verizon). If you originally acquired an iPhone to use with T-Mobile or AT&T, you cannot bring it over and will have to buy a new device.

Spectrum’s mobile service relies on Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network for coverage.

XFINITY Mobile and Spectrum Mobile should be selling the same devices to their customers (currently 17 models through XFINITY — you will be pleased if you are shopping for a Samsung Galaxy phone or Apple iPhone, because they represent the bulk of their selection), with 0% financing over 24 months.

The cable industry has been looking for a less expensive way to enter the mobile/wireless business for more than a decade, with some companies like Cox aborting plans to build their own traditional cellular networks in favor of contracting with existing wireless companies AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile or Sprint to resell access to their networks.

Both Comcast and Charter are following a similar path, contracting with Verizon Wireless to provide nationwide 4G LTE coverage. But the handsets the cable companies are selling are also equipped to take advantage of existing Wi-Fi networks, and default to Wi-Fi internet access and calling wherever possible. The handsets seamlessly switch to Verizon’s network when out of range of a suitable Wi-Fi signal. With a growing percentage of wireless data use today managed over Wi-Fi networks, the two cable operators face lower costs than cable companies did in 2005, when they attempted to form an alliance with Sprint to enter the mobile market that never materialized.

But Comcast’s early entry into the mobile business has not come cheap. The company’s chief financial officer reported Comcast expects to rack up $1.2 billion in operating losses over the first 18 months of being in the wireless business. In 2017, XFINITY Mobile lost $480 million. The company will deal with another $200 million in losses this year as it spends more on marketing and introducing support for more devices subscribers bring from their old carriers. After a year, Comcast has attracted 380,000 subscribers to its wireless venture.

Some of the handsets available for sale at XFINITY Mobile will also be sold by Spectrum Mobile.

Where Comcast and Charter diverge is in their interest in constructing their own wireless networks. Comcast wants to leverage the millions of pre-existing “gateways” already installed in customer homes that deliver traditional Wi-Fi access to its customers and guest users. Charter has experimented with fixed wireless in a handful of markets for in-home broadband replacements, and is also contemplating launching a type of super-powered Wi-Fi service that could deliver wireless connectivity across a neighborhood instead of just a single home. If Charter builds a wireless network utilizing frequencies in the 3.5 GHz band, it will be part of its broader plan to integrate multiple wireless networks together.

“Charter is in the process of transitioning its wireless network from a nomadic Wi-Fi network to one that supports full mobility by combining its existing Wi-Fi assets with multiple 4G and 5G access technologies,” Charter said in comments to the FCC. “In navigating this technological transition, Charter is concentrating on an ‘Inside-Out’ strategy, initially focusing on advanced wireless solutions inside the home and office, and eventually expanding outdoors.”

Spectrum Mobile will be the first part of what the company claims is a multi-step process to create a new and powerful wireless network for customers.

“First, in 2018, Charter will begin offering a mobile wireless service to its customers as a Wi-Fi-first MVNO, partnering with Verizon Wireless and using Charter’s own extensive Wi-Fi infrastructure to enhance customer connectivity and experience,” the company told the FCC in February. “In the second phase, Charter plans to use the 3.5 GHz band in conjunction with its Wi-Fi network to improve network performance and expand capacity to offer consumers a superior wireless service.”

The FCC Four: The Top Special Interests Lobbying the FCC

March was a big month for lobbyists visiting the Federal Communications Commission, which opened the doors to wireless special interest groups for “ex parte” meetings with agency staffers that, in turn, brief the three Republicans and two Democrats that serve as FCC commissioners.

Last month’s ex parte filings reveal strong evidence of a coordinated, well-financed campaign by America’s wireless operators and cable companies to get the FCC to ease off regulations governing forthcoming 5G networks, particularly with respect to where tens of thousands of “small cell” antennas will be installed to deliver the service.

Four industry trade groups and companies are part of the concerted campaign to scale back third party control over where 5G infrastructure will end up. Some want to strip local governments of their power to oversee where 5G infrastructure will be placed, while others seek the elimination of laws and regulations that give everyone from historical societies to Native American tribes a say where next generation wireless infrastructure will go. The one point all four interests agree on — favoring pro-industry policies that give wireless companies the power to flood local communities with wireless infrastructure applications that come with automatic approval unless denied for “good cause” within a short window of time, regardless of how overwhelmed local governments are by the blizzard of paperwork.

Here are the big players:

The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA)

The CCA is primarily comprised of rural, independent, and smaller wireless companies. In short, a large percentage of wireless companies not named AT&T or Verizon Wireless are members of CCA. The CCA’s chief goal is to protect the interests of their members, who lack the finances and political pull of the top two wireless companies in the U.S. CCA lobbyists met ex parte with the FCC multiple times, submitting seven filings about their March meetings.

CCA’s top priority is to get rid of what they consider burdensome regulations about where members can place cell towers and antennas. They also want a big reduction in costly environmental, tribal, and historic reviews that are often required as part of a wireless buildout application. CCA lobbyists argue that multiple interests have their hands on CCA member applications, and fees can become “exorbitant” even before some basic reviews are completed. The CCA claims there have been standoffs between competing interests creating delays and confusion.

Costs are a relevant factor for most CCA members, which operate regional or local wireless networks often in rural areas. Getting a return on capital investment in rural wireless infrastructure can be challenging, and CCA claims unnecessary costs are curtailing additional rural expansion.

NCTA – The Internet & Television Association

The large cable industry lobbyist managed to submit eight ex parte filings with the FCC in March alone, making the NCTA one of the most prolific frequent visitors to the FCC’s headquarters in Washington.

The NCTA was there to discuss the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, which is of particular interest to cable companies like Charter Communications, which wants to get into the wireless business on its own terms. Cable lobbyists, under the pretext of trying to avoid harmful interference, want to secure a large percentage of the CBRS band for their licensed use, at the expense of unlicensed consumers and their wireless industry competitors.

The cable industry wants CBRS spectrum to be wide, spacious, and contiguous for its cable industry members, which should open the door to faster speeds. The lobbyists want to make life difficult for unlicensed use of the band, potentially requiring cumbersome use regulations or costly equipment to verify a lack of interference to licensed users. They also want their traffic protected from other licensed users’ interference.

CTIA – The Wireless Association

The wireless industry’s largest lobbying group made multiple visits to the FCC in March and filed 10 ex parte communications looking for a dramatic reduction in local zoning and placement laws for the next generation of small cells and 5G networks.

The CTIA has been arguing with tribal interests recently. Tribes want the right to review cell tower placement and the environmental impacts of new equipment and construction. The CTIA wants a sped-up process for reviewing cell tower and site applications with a strict 30-day time limit, preferably with automatic approval for any unconsidered applications after the clock runs out. Although not explicitly stated, there have been grumblings in the past that tribal interests are inserting themselves into the review process in hopes of collecting application and review fees as a new revenue source. Wireless companies frequently question whether tribal review is even appropriate for some applications.

Sprint has had frequent run-ins with tribal interests demanding several thousand dollars for each application’s review under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which is supposed to protect heritage and historical sites.

In Houston, Sprint deployed small cells around the NRG Stadium, but found itself paying fees to at least a dozen Indian Tribal Nations as part of the NHPA. The NHPA opens the door to a lot of Native Americans interests because of how the law is written. Any Tribal Nation can express an interest in a project, even when it is to be placed on public or private property that is not considered to be tribal land. In Houston, Sprint found itself paying $6,850 per small cell site, not including processing fees, which raised the cost to $7,535 per antenna location. Those fees only covered tribal reviews, not the cost of installation or equipment. Some tribes offered better deals than others. The Tonkawa Tribe has 611 remaining members, mostly in Oklahoma. But they sought and got $200 in review fees for the 23 small cell sites deployed around the stadium. The Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, not Texas, charged $1,500 for the 23 applications it reviewed.

Sprint complains it has paid millions in such fees over the last 13 years and no tribe to date has ever asked to meet with Sprint or suggest one of its towers or cell sites would intrude on historic or tribal property.

“Tribal Nations are continuing to demand higher fees and designate larger and larger areas of interest,” says Sprint. “At present, there are no constraints on the amount of fees a Tribal Nation may require or the geographic areas for which it can require payment for review. The tribal historic review process remains in place even in situations—such as utility rights-of-way—where the Commission has exempted state historic review.”

The CTIA wants major changes to the NHPA and other regulations regarding cell tower and antenna placement before the stampede of 5G construction begins.

Verizon

Verizon has been extremely busy visiting with the FCC during the month of March, filing 10 ex parte communications, also complaining about the tribal reviews of wireless infrastructure.

Verizon argues it wants to expand wireless service, not effectively subsidize Native American tribes.

“The draft order’s provisions to streamline tribal reviews for larger wireless broadband facilities will likewise speed broadband deployment and eliminate costs, thus freeing up resources that can, in turn, be used to deploy more facilities,” Verizon argued in one filing.

Verizon has also been carefully protecting its most recent very high frequency spectrum buyouts. It wants the FCC to force existing satellite services to share the 29.1-29.25 GHz band for 5G wireless internet. Verizon has a huge 150 MHz swath of spectrum in this band, allowing for potentially extremely high-speed wireless service, even in somewhat marginal reception areas.

“Verizon assured the commission that even when sharing with other services, we would be able to make use of the 150 MHz of spectrum in this block to provide high-speed broadband service to American consumers,” said one filing.

Residents Rebel Against Verizon’s “Godzilla” Small Cell Poles, Previewing 5G Battles to Come

Judith Monroy looks up at a recently installed Verizon small cell signal booster (upper right) placed a few dozen feet from her front door. It was accompanied by a 5-foot high utility cabinet (lower left) containing backup batteries to power Verizon’s equipment for up to four hours in the event of a blackout. (Image courtesy: The Press Democrat)

A preview of the possible aesthetics battle of future 5G small cells that are expected to proliferate across America’s cities and towns in the coming years is taking place in Santa Rosa, Calif., where residents and some city officials reacted with surprise when Verizon began attaching “small cell” wireless repeater equipment on 72 city-owned light and utility-owned poles around the city. While not exactly the same at the 5G equipment Verizon is preparing to install in Sacramento to launch its forthcoming fixed wireless service, the similar-sized equipment turned out to look nothing like what was promised by Verizon officials. But city officials learned this only after the project was approved by a 7-0 City Council vote in 2017.

In January, one resident learned about the sudden arrival of Verizon Wireless’ equipment when she opened her front door one morning to confront a utility pole decorated with antenna equipment and a 5-foot high utility box about 30 feet away from her home.

“I’m planning to put this house on the market and the mechanisms on the telephone pole and in the ground are very aggressive and ominous-looking,” said Judith Monroy, 75. “You can’t miss them.”

Within days, someone vandalized the utility box, spray painting the word “no” and “stop this” for all to see.

In many areas, 5G small cells will be installed on utility or light poles in the front yards of residential homes. Wireless companies will want to place equipment on poles that are not obstructed by foliage or tall, nearby infrastructure, which can block signals. Requests for aggressive tree trimming to remove obstacles, within the limits permitted by local ordinances and the policies of the pole owner, are also likely. This is certain to create controversy if property owners find their trees or shrubbery removed or aggressively pruned. But for many others, the appearance of the new equipment is enough to provoke protests.

When some property owners discovered Verizon was also adorning electric utility poles with its cellular equipment, some started referring to them as “PG&E’s Godzilla Poles.”

‘PG&E Pole Godzilla’ (Image courtesy: The Press Democrat)

The utility poles hosting Verizon’s equipment have new “branches” attached several feet below pre-existing utility wiring, onto which small cell antennas are attached.

As more equipment gets installed, the more concerned citizens are phoning up city hall to complain.

Last week, city officials bowed to citizen pressure and temporarily suspended Verizon Wireless’ antenna upgrade program. While some residents cited health and safety fears from electromagnetic radiation — a fear repeatedly debunked — many more were upset by the aesthetics of the equipment and wondered if the city got a raw deal.

“I think it is time to push the pause button on this installation in our neighborhoods,” said John Cushman, a resident of Hidden Valley. “This project has been rushed and the only urgency I can see is financial.”

Verizon is paying the city $350 per pole, an amount some local residents consider absurdly low. As opposition mounted, some uncomfortable members of City Council that originally voted in favor of Verizon’s plan changed their minds, according to The Press Democrat:

Neighbors are not happy about Verizon’s new equipment. (Image courtesy: The Press Democrat)

“I am supportive of putting the brakes on this,” Councilman Tom Schwedhelm said. “I’m not convinced that we’ve done everything that we can so we can look anyone in the face and say ‘Yes it’s safe there. It’s safe to be in front of my house.’ ”

Councilman Jack Tibbetts said he viewed the rollout as a “commercial enterprise” that perhaps was better suited to commercial areas given the city’s stated goal of helping strengthen the city’s wireless infrastructure to foster entrepreneurialism.

“I’d like to see residential zones be carved out in our ordinance,” Tibbetts said to loud applause in a chamber full of people wearing bright yellow stickers reading “Caution: Cell tower microwave frequency hazard.”

But Verizon may have positioned itself to move forward regardless of what the city has in mind.

The company announced it would continue installation at 25 previously approved sites where it already has permits in-hand. Verizon has yet to obtain permits to place equipment at two other PG&E sites and 31 city light poles.

The city will not have much say over pole attachments on PG&E’s infrastructure, which is governed on the state level by the California Public Utilities Commission.

If the city denies Verizon’s request to install its equipment on city-owned light poles, the company could just move those antennas to other PG&E poles nearby instead.

Verizon Begins Wave of Call Center Closures, Layoffs, in Transition to “Home Based Agents”

Phillip Dampier February 26, 2018 Consumer News, Verizon, Wireless Broadband 3 Comments

Verizon has announced a wave of call center closures in several states that will results in layoffs, although some employees will be invited to reapply for their position if they are willing to move to another state or continue their work as a “Home Based Agent” taking customer service calls from a home office.

Verizon is cutting back on customer service call centers, after looking for ways to cut expenses and direct customers to use “self-service” options on Verizon’s website. For those who still want to speak to ‘a real person,’ increased hold times may be the result. Verizon maintains 16 call centers around the country, with at least six scheduled to close and a seventh closure already in progress.

Affected customer service call centers:

  • Mankato, Minn. — Originally a call center for Midwest Wireless and Alltel before being acquired by Verizon Wireless, about half of the estimated 600 workers will be invited to continue as Home Based Agents, while others will be laid off or invited to apply for another position if they are within 90 miles of another Verizon call center and are willing to commute or relocate. Just a few years ago, this call center was desperate to hire new workers, handing out lucrative signing bonuses and other incentives. The center is expected to close by this September.
  • North Charleston, S.C. — Formerly a Montgomery Ward department store, Verizon Wireless repurposed the 150,000 square foot facility and hired up to 1,000 workers when it opened in 2004. About 500 workers are being invited to transition into Home Based Agents, “supporting customers the same way and with similar tools as if they were working from a traditional brick-and-mortar call center,” according to a Verizon spokesperson. Verizon will save almost $2 million a year in rent closing the call center. The layoffs and call center shutdown are expected to be complete by September.
  • Huntsville, Ala. — The call center in Research Park will be shuttered “in the coming months,” with workers invited to participate in the Home Based Agents program. Verizon claims it will cover “most” of the equipment and supplies needed to work from home, and will pay a stipend of $65 a month for internet access. But other ongoing home office-related expenses, including electricity, furniture, insurance, and other related costs will the employee’s responsibility.
  • Albuquerque, N.M. — Verizon Wireless will shut down its 197,000 square foot call center by October 2019, with workers selected for its Home Based Agents program transitioned out of the building by May of 2019. At least 1,000 workers are likely affected. The call center cost $30 million to open in 2006 and by 2009 employed 1,600 workers.
  • Hilliard, Ohio — A Verizon call center that formerly absorbed a lot of displaced Verizon call center employees across the region is itself shutting down by November of this year. Qualified workers are invited to continue as Home Based Agents. Verizon employees complain Home Based Agents lack job security and are usually among the first to be laid off in any future downsizing actions. Some recommend relocating to another call center instead of working from home.
  • Little Rock, Ark. — Verizon has informed its 600 Little Rock call center employees they are shutting down the office by this October, and workers that want to stay with Verizon will be able to transition to a work-at-home model or apply for a job elsewhere in the company.
  • Franklin, Tenn. — Already downsizing, this call center will be shuttered sometime this year, with workers invited to apply for the Home Based Agents program. But some workers with experience working from home warn there are significant downsides: “You can’t relocate to another call center or move to the Home Based Agents program if you are on ‘corrective action’ (for attendance or performance),” said one worker. Those employees will lose their jobs and receive severance packages. “Moral of the story, don’t let yourself get an attendance warning for your kids having the flu [thinking] ‘I will [accept a write-up]’ because if your center closes, you cannot relocate.”

Verizon spokesperson Jenny Weaver told the Albuquerque Journal a very different story about home agents.

“At other places, we’ve found it’s a satisfaction driver for employees,” Weaver said. “Happy employees translates to happy customers, so we’re excited about this.”

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