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Frontier facts
•Offers voice, broadband, satellite video, wireless Internet data access, data security solutions and bundled offerings
•Located in 27 states
•Four regional hubs: Central – Indiana, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska; East – New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio; West – Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California; National – Wisconsin, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida
•About 14,400 employees in the United States
•2.8 million residential customers, 286,106 business customers
•Annual revenue – $5 billion
•Stock symbol: FTR on NASDAQ
Source: Frontier Communications Corp.
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne recently became Frontier Communications' central region headquarters.

Frontier's presence grows

Communications company moves central region headquarters to city

Lass
In addition to fiber optic voice and Internet service, Frontier Communications also offers cable TV service.
Photos by Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Technician Jemar Lapsley installs fiber optic voice and Internet service on Homedale Drive.

At month's end, Frontier Communications Corp. will host a board of directors meeting at its new central region headquarters – Fort Wayne.

It has been three years since Frontier walked through the door Verizon Communications Inc. exited. From Day 1, the Stamford, Conn., company said Fort Wayne may be the second-largest city in the state, but it would receive first-rate phone, Internet and television service.

The elephant in the room, of course, is Comcast Corp., the Philadelphia-based rival that recorded $62.6 billion in revenue last year, compared with Frontier's $5 billion. Still, Frontier officials feel they're holding their own.

And the decision to make the Summit City a regional hub may speak to the region's importance to the company.

With $1.86 million in franchise fees in 2012, Comcast leads Frontier, which paid only $842,460 in comparison.

The home services companies must pay the city 5 percent of either gross annual subscriber receipts or the franchisee's gross annual receipts, whichever is higher. Cable providers typically don't reveal a customer count, but franchise fees are a gauge of their market share.

Along with its cable, Internet and phone services, Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which operates 30 news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures and Universal Parks and Resorts.

Frontier has never tried to pretend that it's the size of Comcast, only that it can deliver competing services.

Beatrice Mitchell is pleased with her phone and Internet bundle.

"I just moved back here from a suburb near Houston and somebody said Frontier had a deal," the Fort Wayne retiree said. "When they installed it, they were so helpful."

Mitchell said installation was free.

Frontier got different reviews two years ago, when it imposed a 30 percent increase on FiOS television customers. The company said it couldn't negotiate lower programming fees, resulting in viewers paying an extra $30 a month.

As a balm, Frontier began offering customers a chance to switch to DirecTV free for a limited time.

That's the past, and leaders at the business say they are clearly focused on the future with a reorganized central region, comprising Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Nebraska. The alignment was announced this month.

Frontier Area President John Lass moved to Fort Wayne from Burnsville, Minn., the former central region headquarters. He said the restructuring won't result in any new jobs or investment.

"Fort Wayne is very important to us," said Lass, who works from Frontier's 8001 W. Jefferson Blvd. location. "We made the decision to relocate for several reasons, including Fort Wayne's resources, employee pool; we just like being in the fabric of Fort Wayne."

Business researcher Maneesh Sharma said other reasons likely led to the decision as well. The associate professor of finance at IPFW said Frontier is attracted to Indiana's right-to-work status, which became law February 2012. The legislation lets workers choose not to pay to the unions that bargain on their behalf.

Other benefits are the low cost of doing business in Fort Wayne and the state's location, Sharma said.

"It makes sense," he said. "They have a lot of customers in Illinois, but it's not a right-to-work state. There's good infrastructure here and it's centrally located, so when you put it all together it just makes sense."

For its part, Fort Wayne benefits because a national company is designating it a major location, Sharma said. With that comes exposure and cachet, he added.

"No doubt there will be executives flying in here and seeing the community," Sharma said. "It's kind of a feather in Fort Wayne's cap."

Lass said Fort Wayne puts the company in a position to succeed and grow.

In 2010, Frontier closed an $8.6 billion deal with Verizon Communications Inc. to acquire its landline phone, Internet and cable business in 14 states, including Indiana. Critics bemoaned the deal, saying Frontier was too small of a company to take on Verizon's territory and customer service would suffer.

Lass said the company isn't paying attention to naysayers but rather to bettering the customer experience. It seems especially so in northeast Indiana.

Two years ago, Frontier began piloting retail stores in Fort Wayne on Coliseum Boulevard and Pettit Avenue. The idea is to showcase products and services and drive sales. "Conversation Place" store visitors can play online games on high-definition televisions and peruse hands-on displays in storefronts designed to look like recreation rooms.

From its decision to make Fort Wayne a regional center to the board meeting, increased brand awareness is the result, said John Koppin, president of the Indiana Telecommunications Association.

"It shows a huge commitment to the state and to Fort Wayne," he said.

Comcast spokeswoman Mary Beth Halprin said the company isn't looking over its shoulder.

"Our focus is on delivering great service for our customers and being an active, involved partner and employer in the Fort Wayne community," she said in an email.

"We already compete across many of our product lines, whether it's telecom, Internet, video or home automation, and regardless of the number of competitors in any market, we know customers have choices."

pwyche@jg.net

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