Cincinnati Bell customers frustrated by transition amid network shutdown

Cincinnati Bell Wireless, which is in the process of shutting down its service and selling its spectrum to Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), is facing criticisms from customers than the transition has been anything but smooth. Cincinnati Bell will continue to provide service to its wireless customers through Feb. 28.

In order to ease the situation for its customers, Cincinnati Bell in August gave all of its remaining customers unlimited domestic voice, texting and data for no additional charge. The carrier is also waiving its early termination fees.

However, according to a report from the Cincinnati Enquirer, customers who stayed were also hit with a $5 pricing increase that the carrier said was unrelated to the unlimited offer. Customers are complaining the fee essentially represents a rate increase for staying with the carrier.

According to report, customers who had bundled their land lines, home Internet and wireless are being forced to un-bundle their services, forcing customers to pay more. "The bundled discount will be reduced when the wireless service is canceled," Tonya Tate, Cincinnati Bell's director of executive care, told the Enquirer. "The amount of discount customers receive will be based on the remaining services they have with us." She encouraged customers to reach out to customer service to discuss the best options.

Further, only customers with phones one year old or newer will be given the option to unlock their phones and take them to other carriers. Cincinnati Bell had promised to let customers "transition to another provider by providing unlock codes (if available)." Cincinnati Bell said it is offering to help customers with determining the value of their devices for trade-in markets.

"It's disappointing and sad," David Huddleston, an IT worker and customer from Clifton, Ohio, told the Enquirer. "They have always been their own independent company. They did their own thing. It was unique."

Indeed, Cincinnati Bell is the largest of several smaller carriers that have shut down service in the past year or are planning to. The list also includes Revol Wireless, Airadigm's AirFire Mobile brand, Plateau Wireless and Cellular One's business in Montana and Wyoming. Other carriers, including Golden State Cellular and Mobi PCS, have sold their spectrum but are staying in business. 

"We knew we would never be able to compete with the AT&Ts and Verizons, so we decided to get out of the market," Tate said.

Tate acknowledged that some customers have been frustrated by the transition. "I've had the meanest of the mean telling me where to go," Tate said. "People say they didn't ask for this (change), but the company has the right to sell their business, same as you have the right to sell your car."

For more:
- see this Cincinnati Enquirer article

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Correction, Jan. 15, 2015: This article incorrectly stated that Mobi PCS is going out of business. In fact, the company sold its spectrum to Verizon Wireless but is remaining in business.