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Commission Hears Verizon’s Argument In Transfer Proposal

By Staff | Nov 11, 2009

To continue last week’s big story at Wetzel County Commission, this week Sam Cipoletti, the director of government relations for Verizon, presented an argument for the transfer of sale from Verizon to Frontier. Also present was Cathy Efaw from Frontier. The two came together to explain why the transfer is a positive change for the state and also to answer any questions the commission had regarding the intended plan.

At last week’s meeting representatives from the Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 2006 argued that the transfer would lead to many problems for West Virginia and requested the commission sign a resolution to stop the transfer. That document would go to the Public Service Commission.

Cipoletti presented a great deal of information to suggest that the transfer is the best thing for the state. Generally speaking, he said Verizon will still be present in West Virginia, however their main focus is in large urban markets, whereas Frontier caters to rural areas and therefore would be more beneficial to West Virginia.

Regarding the concern for high speed internet, he said Frontier offers better high speed internet than Verizon currently provides. Particularly, the CWA was concerned with losing the chance to access FiOS, fiber optic technology. Cipoletti replied that there was never a guarantee for FiOS to be an option for this area.

Regarding the threat of job loss, Cipoletti explained Verizon will honor its union employees up through 2011 and keep outside technicians 18 months after the transfer. Additionally, Frontier is planning to open a southeast regional headquarters in Charleston that will employ roughly 30 new managerial positions.

Frontier is a Fortune 1,000 company operating in 24 states. It brought in $2.2 billion in revenue last year and has operated in West Virginia for over 20 years. They specialize in integrating systems and bringing high speed internet access to rural areas. Frontier has also assured the commission they intend to make the emergency 911 switch a smooth and seamless transition.

The CWA also made claims about Verizon selling to take advantage of a tax loophole through the Reverse Morris Trust. Cipoletti defends that the trust was enacted in 1997 under President Clinton and many companies have utilized that program.

According to Cathy Efaw, Frontier has what it takes to take over Verizon’s business and has already been approved by the Federal Department of Justice for the transfer. Frontier has also restructured its debt, reduced its quarterly dividends, and lowered interest rates.

Cipoletti’s request to the commission was to not sign the resolution set forth by the CWA and allow the Public Service Commission to hear their case and make the decision for themselves. The PSC has scheduled a series of public meeting in Charleston Jan. 12-14.

As of now, Verizon and Frontier hope to make their transfer by the end of April 2010, contingent on their approval.

The commission has heard thorough arguments from both sides of this issue and will discuss the issue further before deciding whether or not to sign the CWA resolution asking to stop the transfer of Verizon to Frontier.

George Couch, CEO of Wetzel County Hospital; Tim Haught, Wetzel County Prosecutor; and representatives from Air-Evac and the Wetzel County Building Commission gathered to meet with County Commission to discuss authorization of the ground lease for Air-Evac’s construction at the hospital.

After further discussion of the language and location of the helipad and housing facility, the commission motioned to give the building commission the authority to negotiate the lease and to convey the property to be used for the helipad and housing facility. After the lease is finalized and authorized, a public meeting will be held to review and agree to the terms of the lease.

The deadline to open bids to replace the carpet in several courthouse offices has passed.

The commission received only one bid and, after reviewing the bid terms, the commission agreed to hire Riggenbach Tile and Carpet to replace over 900 square yards in the courthouse.