Citizen Wireless: Can you find me now?

Citizens Telephone is getting out of the wireless phone business and becoming an "authorized dealer" for Verizon Wireless -- the dominant cell service provider in Floyd County.

Citizens has not yet told its customers -- who are also its owners -- of the change but Verizon Wireless now lists Citizens as its Floyd representative on their web site.

Verizon customers who used to pay their bills at the "authorized reseller" that operated out of Floyd Pharmacy found out something was changing a few weeks ago when the Verizon counter closed and those who wanted to pay up were directed to the Village Green, home of the Citizens Telephone retail office.

But sales agents at the Village Green had not yet been told of the changeover and told Verizon customers they could not accept payments.

Citizens employees finally learned of the change just last week. I'm told the official changeover comes July 1.

As I understand the coming change, Citizens will no longer offer cell service under their own brand. The co-op has quietly dropped cell service from their web site's menu of services and wireless service is no longer included in the "bundled" services. Existing Citizens cell phone customers can keep their phones and continue paying Citizens but new accounts will not be opened.

The retreat from the cell phone business is another blow to Citizens' once-ambitious plan to become a telecommunications player. Last year, the company shut down its money-draining wireless broadband service in the New River Valley, writing off considerable losses and the company's county-wide deployment of fiber optic is so far behind schedule that they no longer even  promote a target date for completion.

Citizens Telephone is getting out of the wireless phone business and becoming an "authorized dealer" for Verizon Wireless — the dominant cell service provider in Floyd County.

Citizens has not yet told its customers — who are also its owners — of the change but Verizon Wireless now lists Citizens as its Floyd representative on their web site.

Verizon customers who used to pay their bills at the "authorized reseller" that operated out of Floyd Pharmacy found out something was changing a few weeks ago when the Verizon counter closed and those who wanted to pay up were directed to the Village Green, home of the Citizens Telephone retail office.

But sales agents at the Village Green had not yet been told of the changeover and told Verizon customers they could not accept payments.

Citizens employees finally learned of the change just last week. I’m told the official changeover comes July 1.

As I understand the coming change, Citizens will no longer offer cell service under their own brand. The co-op has quietly dropped cell service from their web site’s menu of services and wireless service is no longer included in the "bundled" services. Existing Citizens cell phone customers can keep their phones and continue paying Citizens but new accounts will not be opened.

The retreat from the cell phone business is another blow to Citizens’ once-ambitious plan to become a telecommunications player. Last year, the company shut down its money-draining wireless broadband service in the New River Valley, writing off considerable losses and the company’s county-wide deployment of fiber optic is so far behind schedule that they no longer even  promote a target date for completion.

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2 Responses

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that Citizens was using Verizon’s network. Does Citizens have antennas on the cell towers in Floyd County? I don’t believe they do. If that is true, then their decision to not offer wireless makes business sense – the profit margin is so thin that it probably doesn’t pay to offer the service. Citizens will still make money on the DS-1 or DS-3 circuits that it provides to the cell towers, though. Citizens owns the cable that provides service to the cell towers and charges Verizon a fee for providing the circuits that connect the towers to the national network.

    As far as fiber optic deployment is concerned, I believe that you might be referring to fiber-to-the-home service. That is a huge capital investment and, as far as I know, only Verizon is offering what it calls FIOS (not sure what the acronym stands for) – the other telecom companies (not many left after SBC bought AT&T and BellSouth and changed its name to AT&T) are leveraging their twisted pair infrastructure to compete with the cable companies.

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