Here's what Frontier says it will do to help unhappy Florida customers

Heres the six-step plan from Frontiers press release:

  • Completion of the training of the more than 1,200 former Verizon technicians who are now part of the Frontier team in Florida. This training could only take place following the close of the transaction. Completion of the training has enabled Frontier to address install and repair activities at a higher rate, completing over 2,000 to 2,200 service-related calls each day.
  • For Florida customers, utilization of a full-time US-based call center employees as the first choice call response team. As of today, call answer times range between 30 seconds to 2 minutes, which is in line with normal targets.
  • For Florida customers, the establishment of a special residential customer care number for the next 30 days, 1-888-457-4110, which is available from 7 am to 11 pm
  • Implementation of a "SWAT Team" to coordinate the rapid response to customer escalations and service outages. This team complements the state and regional leaders who are already working field operations.
  • Bill credits will be issued to every customer who reported a service outage. This credit will be reflected on the customer's bill no later than the end of June. The company plans to address other credit issues on a case by case basis.
  • In addition, resolution of the temporary, limited availability of content in the Video On Demand (VOD) library for some FiOS TV subscribers. VOD content is functioning today and they are working to load more than 100,000 additional titles into the VOD library and placing a priority on loading the most popular content first. They expect to complete this process within the next several weeks. They will also ensure that all content that customers have previously purchased is available to them.

Additionally, Bondi said Frontier has agreed to immediately prioritize complaints from seniors and medically disadvantaged individuals, some of whom lost essential 911 service.

Margie Manning is Finance Editor of the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She covers the Money beat.


Frontier Communications outlines recovery action plan

by Rhonda Lutzke, Area President, Frontier South Region

We know how critical our services are to the lives of our customers, and our customers rank highest on our priority list. That's why we take any and all issues they may be experiencing very seriously. We remain committed to every customer and to making sure they continue to enjoy their services. We could not be more grateful to those who have given us their patronage.

In order to better serve our valued customers and to resolve any issues they might be experiencing, we've developed a multi-faceted action plan that includes current and future measures that we're taking to assist customers.

Recovery Plan

Operations Staffing

o Completed training of the 450 former Verizon technicians, who are now part of the Frontier team in Texas. This training could only take place following the close of the transaction. Completion of the training has enabled Frontier to address install and repair activities at a higher rate, completing on average 900 to 1,000 per day.

o 11 additional technicians from Fort Wayne, Indiana, are assisting Texas customers through the end of May.

o Staffing up operations with additional contractors. We have added 45 to date and plan to add up to 65 in total, as required.

Call Centers

o For Texas customers, utilization of our full-time, US-based call center employees as the first choice call response team. As of today, our call answer times range between 30 seconds to 2 minutes, which is in line with our normal targets.

Rapid Response Coordination

o Implementation of a "SWAT Team" to coordinate the rapid response to customer escalations and service outages. This team complements our state and regional leaders, who are already working field operations.

Bill Credits

o Bill credits will be issued to customers who reported a service outage. This credit will be reflected on the customer's bill no later than the end of June. We will address other credit issues on a case-by-case basis.

Video On Demand Services

o In addition, resolution of the temporary, limited content availability in the Video On Demand (VOD) library for some of our FiOS TV subscribers. VOD content is functioning today, and we are working to load more than 100,000 additional titles into the VOD library, placing a priority on loading the most popular content first. We expect to complete this process within the next several weeks. We will also ensure that all content that customers have purchased previously is available to them.

Again, we are sincerely sorry for any service issues our Texas customers may have experienced due to this transition. As we work toward the future, we want to make sure our customers know that every one of them matters to us and that we will continue to strive to earn their confidence and trust.



House Launches Attack on Servicemember Lending Protections

Update, Thursday 4/30: Predatory lenders defeated, troops protected, for now!
Heres Representative Duckworths release on her bi-partisan 32-30 victory in protecting the Military Lending Act at 4:30 AM this morning. As we note in our own release: We expect further attacks on the Department of Defenses important new rules, on the House floor and in the Senate, but are prepared to stand alongside Rep. Duckworth and Senator Jack Reed (RI) and others who are working to protect our troops, while others who may often say support our troops are working against them.

Original Post 4/29: On Wednesday, April 29, the House Armed Services Committee will vote on the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, HR 1735. Unfortunately, predatory lenders have convinced its personnel subcommittee to add a provision, Section 594, that will delay needed Pentagon regulations improving the Military Lending Act for at least one year, while a redundant, unnecessary study is carried out. The Army Times has more.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (IL), a veteran, and member of the full committee, is expected to offer an amendment to strike the onerous provision, which threatens unit preparedness, unit morale and the well-being of the nations defenders themselves.

Last year, the Department of Defense proposed needed improvements to the 2007 Military Lending Act, in response to growing concerns that payday and other high-cost lenders were making loans to servicemembers at 400 percent APR or more, by exploiting loopholes to evade the laws 36 percent APR cap. The Pentagon argued that the loopholes posed ongoing harms to both military families and unit preparedness. Why unit preparedness? When servicemembers default on loans, bad credit reports result in security clearances being revoked. The Pentagon found that the problem was big enough to harm unit preparedness since significant numbers of servicemembers were being prevented from deployment on ships or overseas, which generally requires a security clearance. The Pentagon also found that unit morale suffered from the harsh effects of predatory lending.

The bi-partisan Military Lending Act of 2007 passed after two major efforts. First, for years the Pentagon had allowed active-duty military commanders at bases around the country to join military assistance organizations, faith, civil rights and consumer leaders in supporting state action to rein in high-cost lending. As one Marine general told a San Diego community group in 2006:

With our Navy partners we are going after Pay Day Lenders. Pay Day Lenders are the parasites found outside of our military bases in Southern California who prey on young Marines and Sailors because the lenders know they are uninformed consumers. --Maj. Gen. Mike Lehnert, commander of Marine Corps Bases (West).

Then, a comprehensive Pentagon predatory lending study confirmed the need for federal action. The 2007 Military Lending Act capped payday and other loan rates to military families at 36 percent APR. But lenders re-designed their loans to evade the caps. Predatory lending continued. In 2014, the Department of Defense proposed a comprehensive new rule designed to capture all forms of predatory lending and ban certain practices, such as pre-dispute arbitration clauses, in loans to servicemembers.

In testimony to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in 2013, Colonel Paul Kantwill, Director of Legal Policy, Office of the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness, Department of Defense, stated:

I will discuss other financial challenges confronting Servicemembers, veterans, and their families in todays consumer marketplace. These challenges are many and varied, but I will focus primarily on issues and challenges that fall within or around the Military Lending Act (MLA)--small dollar, payday-type lending services and products -- as the Department sees this as the biggest, current financial challenge facing our Servicemembers, Veterans, and their families.

Following that testimony, the Pentagon issued a 2014 report calling for changes to the Military Lending Act. That report found the following:

Losing qualified Service members due to personal issues, such as financial instability, causes loss of mission capability and drives significant replacement costs. [...] Additionally, financial concerns detract from mission focus and often times require attention from commanding officers and senior NCOs to resolve outstanding debts and other credit issues.

Subsequently, the Department of Defense, led by then-Secretary Chuck Hagel, proposed comprehensive changes to the MLAs implementing regulation designed to protect servicemembers and unit preparedness. This Americans for Financial Reform webpage includes a variety of materials supporting the changes, as well as a link to the proposed rule and a summary of the rule. Here is a recent statement on the need for an improved Military Lending Act rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Predatory lenders first laid siege to our military bases, surrounding them with flashy storefronts targeting young soldiers and their families for high-cost loans, including payday, auto title and other high-cost loans. Congress acted, but more needs to be done. Now, the lenders have surrounded the Congress with their siege towers (likely tossing campaign cash instead of missiles from their trebuchets), asking it to delay additional protections against their unfair practices while needless, redundant studies are prepared. Only in Washington would some politicians even consider a calculus that places the demands of special interests above the compelling needs of both the nations military preparedness and the well-being of the nations defenders themselves.



Home economics... answering your property questions

Question: We have been looking at new houses and are very impressed with the A energy ratings and energy saving systems contained in a lot of them. We are also viewing older properties with BER ratings of D /E or F, which seems quite off putting. What measures can be taken to improve these older houses?  Is it possible to increase the BER rating of properties 20 and 30 plus years old and what would they cost?

Sinead replies: Many homes built from 2012 onwards have a Building Energy Rating on the A scale and include a range of energy efficient elements including solar panels, underfloor heating, stoves and air/water source pumps.

However anything dating from the 70s/80s typically achieves an E rating, particularly if such homes have oil or gas central heating and have had no upgrades in the meantime. There is plenty you can do to improve the lot of one of these properties and many people manage to get very good BERs following some investment.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) told me that the first thing to do is add insulation to the external walls (polystyrene beads is the most common method) and to the roof (up to 300mm).

Installing a new gas or oil boiler will give you at least 90pc efficiency and independent controls to space and water heating systems. These measures alone could bring the house to C1 and happily, there are grants available to aid the cost which are not means tested.

The cost of wall, roof and heating upgrades like this would probably cost EUR4,500 - EUR5,000 for an average home but its very hard to say without quotes for the specific house. The grants amount to EUR1,650 depending on the size of the property. SEAI reckons you would be paid back in lower heating bills by 4 - 5 years. See www.seai.ie for more information. The scheme is called Better Energy Homes.

In addition, new windows would certainly help - most firms will retrofit double or triple glazing to older houses but it is expensive, so get several quotes.

Question: My husband and I own our own dormer bungalow, mortgage free. We have two daughters in permanent jobs, but with no chance of getting a mortgage. Is there a scheme where we can get money on our house and pay it back after death in order to help them get a deposit?

Sinead replies: There are two issues here. The first is your daughters inability to get a mortgage. Banks have significantly upped their lending and all five are freely offering mortgages at the moment. With permanent jobs, I cant see any reason they wouldnt qualify (perhaps even as a couple) unless there are other credit issues. They should make an appointment with a specialist mortgage broker who will take them through the process and at least find out for sure.

With regard to helping them out, you can give them up to EUR3,000 each, tax free, per year under the small gifts exemption scheme (your husband and you means EUR6,000 per child). You can give them any cash amount over that but it will be added to their eventual inheritance for tax purposes.

The only way of using equity of your home is to take out a personal loan at the full going interest rate. Banks are unlikely to offer you yourselves a re-mortgage, unless you are still young enough to repay it in your lifetime. I dont know your ages, but if you say you are still 10 years off retirement, you could still qualify.

However I have to tell you that there is no scheme here which allows a mortgage to be deferred until you pass away; you would have to make the repayments as you go. In any event, banks frown on parental deposits - to give someone a mortgage they want to see a strong savings track record from the home owner to be.

Think through those options but do get financial advice before making a decision.

The issue of deposits are becoming a real issue now for first time buyers especially in Dublin as the bite of the Central Banks rules hit home.

They only need to raise EUR22,000 to provide the 10pc of the EUR220,000 cap required which is proving acceptable in Donegal, Kerry, Leitrim and most other counties. However, property in Dublin is still priced stubbornly high - over EUR300,000 in the city, and around EUR540,000 in the more desirable areas. Even the cost of an elusive three bed semi is proving too much.

Is there a case for a higher Dublin Deposit?

It might stick in the craw of the bean counters in Dame Street but another suggestion was made for an SSIA style scheme to help in the longer term. Brokers on the IrishMorgages app say that a savings incentive, pitched into by Government (as it was during the original 2001 version) with a 25pc bonus included would save both on the amount wasted rent and towards deposit costs.

Its unlikely to be heard by those ears that need to. The general direction appears to be to create more supply and let the market look after itself.

It will, but very slowly - and perhaps no faster than a 5 year SSIA would have impacted in any event. Until then, the savings of younger prospective buyers are being eroded away by inflation in a chicken-and-egg situation.

The Ryan review

The issue of deposits are becoming a real issue now for first time buyers especially in Dublin as  the bite of the Central Bank's  rules hit home. 

They only need to raise EUR22,000 to provide the 10pc of the EUR220,000 cap required which is proving acceptable in Donegal, Kerry, Leitrim and most other counties.  However, property in Dublin is still priced stubbornly high  -- over EUR300,000 in the city, and around EUR540,000 in the more desirable areas. Even the cost of  an elusive three bed semi is proving too much.

Is there a case for a higher 'Dublin Deposit'?

It might stick in the craw of the bean counters in Dame Street but another suggestion was made for an SSIA style scheme to help in the longer term. Brokers on the 'IrishMorgages' app say that a savings incentive, pitched into by Government (as it was during the original 2001 version) with a 25pc bonus included would save both on the amount 'wasted' rent and towards deposit costs.

It's unlikely to be heard by  those ears that need to. The general direction appears to  be to create more supply and let the market look after itself. 

It will, but very slowly -- and perhaps no faster than a 5 year SSIA would have impacted in  any event. Until then, the savings of younger prospective buyers  are being eroded away by inflation in a chicken-and-egg situation.

Indo Property

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Ralph Nader: Financial Literacy Month? - OpEd

April 1st marks the start of Financial "Literacy" Month. Ironically, a group of researchers and experts say the month -- declared by Congress in 2004 to promote smart money management -- should be re-named Financial "Illiteracy" Month. Why? Because financial literacy as it is generally taught does not work.

Just look at student loan debt. According to new data from the US Department of Education, young people are late on over 33 billion dollars' worth of student loans. That overdue debt is just part of the problem. Many of these young people already have other credit issues that can impact their ability to get a good job, or ultimately buy a home or build a savings and retirement account.

Why isn't financial literacy education working? Because financial literacy education is largely funded by the very same businesses that prosper when young people make poor money decisions -- big banks, credit card companies and other huge financial industry businesses. These businesses are concerned with selling their wares, not in teaching customers to buy something that may be better or cheaper from a competitor or to not incur any debt at all. Too often, financial service businesses prosper when young people buy the wrong product, pay a higher interest rate than necessary, fall for the lure of high-interest credit card debt and impulse buying, or otherwise get injured financially by their lack of financial skills.

If you have trouble believing that conflicted businesses actually rule financial literacy, check out the national corporate sponsors of any financial literacy resource and you will find a rogue's gallery of companies that profit from money mistakes or have paid heavy fines for committing financial misconduct against their own customers.

This means that financial education tools influenced by these businesses focus mainly on the dry mechanics of money -- the difference between a stock and a bond or how interest makes your savings grow. The focus is not on teaching consumers how to be savvy in their financial dealings.

"It's ironic that financial literacy resources influenced by conflicted businesses will tell you what to do if you're in trouble with debt. Usually their advice includes a money-making proposition for the business. But these conflicted businesses will completely ignore the reasons you got in debt in the first place," says Malcolm Kirschenbaum, the president of the FoolProof Foundation. FoolProof was formed with the help of former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite to deal with the problem of ineffective financial literacy education.

"None of the finance industry's tools teach 'defensive spending," Kirschenbaum adds. "None teach skepticism in financial transactions. None impart the critical need for caution in dealing with any situation that impacts a young person's financial or personal well-being."

"Is a credit card company going to support a financial literacy program that teaches kids to pay their credit card bill in full each month?" asks Will deHoo, head of FoolProof's Walter Cronkite Project. "Is a bank going to sponsor a program that says, 'Be sure and read about the billions in fines our sponsor has paid for hurting its own customers!'? Of course not."

Ineffective programs lead to unprepared young people. Even the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland came to that conclusion in a major study in 2008: "The literature does not succeed in establishing the extent of the benefit provided by financial education programs, nor does it provide conclusive support that any benefit at all exists," the study concludes. And the respected Jumpstart Coalition's annual survey of high school students has consistently shown that financial education does not increase financial knowledge among high school students.

A solution to this ongoing crisis is emerging courtesy of the FoolProof Foundation'sWalter Cronkite Project. The project is offering a financial literacy curriculum that works. It is free, no strings attached -- right now, to all teachers and educators. The curriculum is extensive -- it offers up to 22 hours of financial literacy training, all turn-key for the teacher/mentor.

The Cronkite curriculum has now been tested by 5000 teachers nationally, and millions of people have looked at the FoolProof curriculum online. Because of its tough, ethical advocacy for young people, the curriculum has become the only financial literacy program in the United States that is endorsed by both the Consumer Federation of America and the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Teachers and other educators can review and test the curriculum immediately, for free atfoolproofteacher.com.

The Cronkite Project has also launched a web-driven version of its curriculum for college-age young people and others with limited financial skills called FoolProof Solo.

Conservatives like to tout personal responsibility as a hallmark of their political philosophy. FoolProof touts the same message: you are ultimately responsible for your financial mistakes and future. FoolProof Foundation programs deliver this tough message: you can learn to protect your rights as a consumer or you can be fleeced. A short video, appropriately titled "Sucker Punch", explains the financial risks posed by irresponsibly entering the credit card economy.

Teaching young people how to be smart with their money is certainly a left/right convergence issue worth pursuing. The Walter Cronkite Project's goal is to expand its reach nationally. If you are concerned about the financial future of young people, help the Cronkite project spread the word about the FoolProof curriculums. Tell teachers or any educators you know. Share the FoolProof links with media contacts. Visit the Cronkite Project website yourself. Access to all FoolProof resources is totally free, agenda-free, and online.

Let us use this financial "illiteracy" month to turn the tide on faulty financial literacy practices for young people today and for future generations to come.