Fla. Gives Verizon Retention Relief

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Verizon Communications Inc. will be able to act faster on introducing promotional rates designed to retain telephone customers, due to a change in tariff filing rules approved by the Florida Public Service Commission.

The change, sought by Verizon, will allow the company to create “save” offers to convince its landline customers to stay with the incumbent telephone provider, instead of switching to phone services from providers such as cable operators.

Verizon now will only have to give one day’s notice to the commission of a new promotion, by e-mail. Prior to the April 18 ruling by the PSC, Verizon had to post notice of promotional rate offers 15 days in advance. That tariff filing also gave competitors notice of the change in pricing.

“It was like flying a banner around a city telling everybody what we were doing,’ said Bob Elek, Verizon’s Florida state spokesman.

Verizon has been testing retention incentives, such as gift cards, billing discounts and other savings, since February, he said. The limit imposed by the state: $55 in savings per year for a customer.

State officials demand reports on the incentives twice a year, to ensure that the telephone company is not offering services below cost in highly competitive areas.

“We wouldn’t do that anyway,” Elek said.

According to the company, Verizon had 2.34 million access lines in Florida in the first quarter of 2003. By the fourth quarter of 2005, the number of all access lines had slipped to 1.99 million.

Bright House Networks launched Internet Protocol-based phone service in part of Verizon’s service area in October 2004. In Sarasota County, Comcast Corp. has only recently launched phone service.

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