Verizon Rings in 'Freedom'

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Verizon Communications has beaten Bright House Networks to the punch with a quad-play bundle in Tampa, Fla.

The telephone company, which has introduced its FiOS TV video service, is now marketing the “Complete Freedom” package in the Tampa market. At a base price of $142.92, Tampa consumers can buy wireline and wireless telephone service, digital subscriber line or FiOS Internet service, where available; and either DirecTV direct-broadcast satellite service or FiOS video service, depending on what's available in the neighborhood.

This marks Verizon's second push for this kind of bundle: It also offers four services to subscribers in Texas.

For its part, Bright House Networks continues to offer a triple-play bundle, priced at $136.85 in Tampa. Parent Advance/Newhouse Communications is part of a consortium, along with Time Warner Cable, Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc., that is developing a cellular-phone product that will be integrated into cable's current three-product bundle, via venture partner Sprint Nextel.

However, the cable operator hasn't yet introduced cellphone service in Tampa, said Kena Lewis, senior director of public affairs and communications for Bright House's Florida Group.

“But it's just a matter of time,” she said of the launch of cell phone services.

Pricing and packaging is not the only differentiator between competitors, she said, noting that Verizon must still deliver a positive consumer experience.

A local columnist, Steve Otto of the Tampa Tribune, wrote on Oct. 10 that he had recently subscribed to Verizon's multiple products because of his hatred of the cable company. However, the video service hadn't worked correctly, with Otto spending parts of the last few weeks talking to tech support in Texas, California, Florida and to one representative who asked where Tampa is located.

The Verizon package will offer users calls between their cellular and home landline phones without airtime charges.

“We're bringing together the two premier calling services from Verizon and Verizon Wireless to create a calling plan that will appeal to busy households that communicate a lot, customers who want the best value for their communications dollar, and those who clamor for simplicity,” said Bob Ingalls, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Verizon, in a statement.

All Complete Freedom services will be accounted for in a single bill.

Package customers will get services such as OnePoint voice mail, a service that automatically sends a text notification to the user's cellphone when a voice mail is left on his or her landline phone.

Customers who don't want a quad bundle can buy just phone services together. Prices for a two-product bundle begin at $79.94.

Subscribers choose among three landline options, which vary by feature sets (i.e. caller ID, call waiting). The landline plans include unlimited domestic any-distance calling. The cellular component varies in pricing depending on how many cell phones are activated for the address.

Verizon has also rolled out its four-product gambit in the Lone Star State, the telco's first video market. Bob Elek, Verizon's southeast media-relations manager, said Complete Freedom is available in all the Texas markets served by Verizon, which counts 1.4 million landline customers there.

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