AT&T, Verizon, Qwest Work to Fight Customer Defections to Cable

AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc., the three biggest U.S. home-phone companies, are working together for the first time to keep customers away from cable providers.

Subscribers moving to an area served by a different carrier will be referred to movearoo.com, a Web site that offers help in switching service, AT&T marketing executive Frank Mona said yesterday in an interview. The site doesn’t show digital phone service from cable companies.

The partnership is designed to help the phone companies hang on to subscribers at a time when they are most likely to consider switching to Comcast Corp. and other cable providers. About 60 percent of customers re-evaluate which services they use when they move, according to Dallas-based AT&T.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable Inc. are luring customers by packaging TV service with phone lines and Internet access. AT&T, the biggest of the phone providers, lost 4.9 percent of its primary home-phone lines in 2007, ending the year with 31 million.

The cable industry started a similar Web site in 2006 and has offered a hotline to connect customers to providers in new areas since 2003.

“They’ve had success with that,” Mona said. “During a move, customers re-evaluate everything.”

AT&T rose 68 cents to $32.96 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. New York-based Verizon climbed 36 cents to $35.36, and Denver-based Qwest gained 5 cents to $3.88.

Other Services

WhiteFence, a Houston-based company that runs comparison- shopping sites, will operate movearoo.com. Mona declined to say how much the companies are spending on the site. Each has a separate financial arrangement with WhiteFence, he said.

Customers can also use the site to set up gas and electric service, subscribe to newspapers, and request quotes for movers.

AT&T operates home-phone lines in 22 U.S. states, including much of the Southeast and Midwest. Verizon serves customers in parts of 25 states, concentrating on the Northeast. Qwest offers local phone lines in 14 Western states.

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