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Updated: Frontier’s Free DSL Speed Downgrades; West Virginians Wonder Where the Better Broadband Is

Phillip Dampier February 9, 2012 Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News, Frontier, Rural Broadband 12 Comments

Broadband life in Frankford, Greenbrier County, W.V. may be slow, but few customers of Frontier Communications thought things could get even slower.  And then they did.

Stop the Cap! reader DJ has been frustrated with the performance of his phone company — Frontier, that took control of Verizon’s landline network across the state.  Verizon rarely got the hopes up for customers waiting more than a decade for broadband service to reach them.  Dana Waldo, Frontier’s senior vice president and general manager did, telling West Virginians Frontier would propel the Mountain State from its current rank of 47th in the country to the top 5.  Achieving that goal seems unlikely when the company quietly reduces some customers’ broadband speeds.

“We are on the High Speed Max plan which gives us, or should I say gave us 3.5Mbps,” DJ shares.  Although his phone line supported that speed, Frontier’s congested network could not, especially at night when speeds dropped dramatically.  It took several months for Frontier to upgrade local facilities in the county to better manage the broadband demands of customers who pay $110 a month for DSL and phone service.

Frontier representatives promised the Pocahontas Times further upgrades were on the way by February of 2011, DJ says. February came and went and promised speeds of 5Mbps never arrived and Frontier representatives told DJ they didn’t know a thing about a 5Mbps broadband plan.

Fast forward to last spring: Frontier’s website suddenly advertised speeds up to 12Mbps.

Frontier's Mysterious Upgrade List

“I first contacted them through their Twitter account and was told I could receive 8Mbps, went through all the processes and a few days later I was told I [already] had the maximum speed available for my area and nothing was ever done,” DJ writes.

The Phantom “Network Upgrades” List

More discouraging to DJ was the surprise appearance of a Network Upgrades listing on the company’s website that again promised better days for customers in states like West Virginia.

“The geniuses at Frontier listed us as Frankfort instead of Frankford but either way we were listed to get upgrades at the end of [this past] November,” DJ says. “The date came, the date passed. Never once did I see a Frontier truck out working. I still found myself [with] 3.5Mbps and after being lied to about upgrades for the third time in a few years I was ticked.”

Frontier representatives would later wonder where DJ obtained the Network Upgrades list, which has since disappeared from the company’s website.  Stop the Cap! has an archived copy here (PDF).

The worst part of DJ’s story came on Jan. 24, when Frontier reduced his speed from 3.5Mbps to 1.3Mbps without notice or explanation.  Frontier, the phone company that provides free speed decreases for customers, is not part of any marketing plan DJ knows about, so he began calling the company for answers.

“I was told my speed would be fixed when “upgrades” were complete,” DJ reports. Later that day, after a series of complaint calls, his old speed returned, leaving him right where he started in 2010.

“There is no excuse for that kind of treatment and it has been going on for years,” DJ says. “It’s a shame we can’t get anything else; Suddenlink literally stops serving just down the road with 10Mbps service — sad.”

[Updated 3/26 2:31pm ET:  Changed piece to reflect unincorporated Frankford is actually in Greenbrier County, not Pocahontas.]

 

Currently there are 12 comments on this Article:

  1. DJ says:

    Thanks for getting this out there for others to read, I do appreciate it.

    I do have some slightly good news though, I might be moving!!! No more Frontier!!

  2. jr says:

    Frontier CEO Mary Agnes Wilderotter received $8,584,002 in total compensation in 2010

  3. Hank says:

    This speed reduction and congestion is wider spread in WV than listed in the article. Frontier is not forth coming when these issues will be corrected.

  4. Jeff says:

    I wish you would also report that Frontier inherited a crap network from Verizon, which was basically just harvesting its rural ILECs for the cash flows and had woefully underinvested in them for years. Capital expenditures for Verizon were concentrated in big cities and their suburbs only.

    Frontier is doing the best it can to build out the middle mile and last mile, but these things take time. You can’t just wave a magic wand and have it happen overnight.

    • We have reported that extensively, Jeff. Verizon held WV together with electrical tape and prayers.

      However, Frontier has a long track record of spending only enough to provide the lowest level of service it can get away with. Their largest service area, Rochester, N.Y., is woefully behind (to the point of embarrassment) Verizon’s network in other upstate N.Y. cities. They are losing customers to the cable company and cell phone providers because there is simply NO good reason to do business with this company. Absolutely none. Verizon customers have access to 50Mbps fiber broadband, and Frontier can’t manage 4Mbps in one of this city’s richest suburbs.

      Frontier sees its future serving customers 1-3Mbps DSL at enormous prices where they don’t face any immediate competitive threat. That explains West Virginia. Their network is oversold, their DSL speeds are frankly terrible, their prices and hidden gotcha fees are unconscionable to the point they are being sued for fraud, they have had to settle with the NY Attorney General for charging unjustified termination fees, and leave customers hanging without service with days. We see the complaints here almost every day.

      If Verizon ever decides to return with a home broadband product based on LTE 4G with a generous usage package, Frontier will be in very serious trouble very fast.

      Even FairPoint, which went bankrupt, is now spending on fiber builds, ADSL2+, and enough D-SLAMs to make sure customers get something closer to 6-7Mbps, not 1-3Mbps. CenturyLink is building out their own IPTV fiber-to-the-neighborhood system in larger service areas. Frontier tells their 1 million customers in upstate New York to stick with decade old DSL and satellite TV for their “triple play.”

      Sorry, but Frontier can and should be doing far better than this. But that kind of spending might affect their dividend payout, something this company obsesses about.

    • DJ says:

      @Jeff

      The network I’m on was not a former Verizon network, nor were the ones in Pocahontas County.

      Frontier owned all of these before, but then bought the lines in Lewisburg which is 20 minutes south of here, they get Suddenlink 10Mb there.

      Verizon previously had offered customers 6Mb DSL there from my understanding, however once Frontier took over those lines the speeds dropped considerably.

  5. Mike says:

    Like DJ, I also live in the Frankford, WV, local dialing area ((304) 497-XXXX). Our download speeds are generally in the range of 200-300kbps (yes, that’s KILOBITS per second) in the evening hours. If we were getting 3.5Mbps service, as DJ says he is, we’d be rejoicing.

    It is generally impossible to stream video and, often, even audio cannot be streamed. Web page accesses are slow, and it took me over an hour to download a copy of Quickbooks the other night (I can do the same download at my office, where I have Suddenlink, in much less than 5 minutes.) Note: I did that slow download from the Frankford Fire Station, which is literally in sight of the Frontier switching station.

    We have a facebook group called Fix Frontier DSL Now with 100 likers, mostly within the Frankford exchange. We have complained to the state Public Service Commission with no response. A complaint to the Attorney General’s Office yielded a response from Frontier that our DSL would be fixed by the end of March, as they complete a buildout in the Marlinton, West Virginia, area. That means it should be done this week. But, given their track record, I have low expectations.

    Jeff is wrong to blame this on Verizon. The Frankford exchange is in the Frontier legacy area…we never had Verizon service here, though our neighbors a mile down the road did have Verizon. Also, our service was previously much, much better, but deteriorated after Frontier bought out Verizon’s customers. It is obvious that Frontier redirected most of their bandwidth to the Verizon legacy areas, where there is much more likely to be competition from cable, to the detriment of their legacy customers.

    There is no good reason to do business with Frontier unless compelled to do so.

    By the way, the Frankford service area lies entirely within Greenbrier County, West Virginia, rather than neighboring Pocahontas County.

    • Thanks for the correction about Greenbrier County. I’ll update the piece.

      The symptoms you are describing are classic “overselling.” Peak speeds decline when their backbone (regional most likely) becomes oversaturated with traffic. Speeds for everyone declines until congestion eases. They need to increase the connection they have with their provider to improve “peak speed” capacity that recognizes demand on their network during the evening and weekends.

      Try touching base with Byron Harris at the Consumer Advocate Division of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia:

      723 Kanawha Boulevard, East
      Union Building, Suite 700
      Charleston, WV 25301
      Phone: 304/558-0526
      Fax: 304/558-3610

      He might be able to light some additional fires under Frontier, but unfortunately it’s all going to be voluntary because the PSC doesn’t regulate Frontier broadband.

      Here are some direct phone numbers for Frontier management in WV:

      304-344-3939 [email protected]
      304-344-7234 [email protected]

      I’d start there. But you can also pester Frontier more locally by finding the service area closest to your area here: http://www.frontier.com/customerservice/southeastcontacts/

      • Mike says:

        Thanks, Phillip. That’s very helpful.

        We previously wrote the Public Service Commission, but got no reply. The Attorney General’s Office has been more helpful, but their approach is voluntary mediation, unless they decide that there is fraud and prosecute, which they have been known to do in other cases. To my way of thinking, selling non-existent bandwidth is every bit as fraudulent as selling any other commodity that you just don’t have.

        At this point, I’m inclined to wait ’till the end of the week and see if they really do anything. If not, I’ll go back through the Attorney General’s office, pointing out that 1. they have once again told a big lie and 2. the solution involves them writing a check to the provider, not building out some new equipment in Marlinton.

        Cheers,

        Mike

        • The company does talk about their congestion issues in their quarterly conference calls with investors, but it’s all sweetness and light as the problems are always on the cusp of being solved.

          I’d push for a much more meaningful service credit to start. You should be able to get most of your broadband service fees credited back for service this dismal. Try Arndt and Waldo. Both have been known to actually talk to customers. With Frontier, the squeaky wheel always gets the grease first.

          • Mike says:

            I am actually a Frontier shareholder. There performance in that aspect is lousy, as well. I bought the stock thinking it had nowhere to go but up, but it has surprised me and gone down, down, down.

            I’m really not so much interested in getting my money back (though that would be nice) as in getting true broadband. Even slow broadband would be better than one.

            Thanks again!

            Mike

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