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Frontier’s Wilderotter Claims W.V. Among Top-5 Broadband States; Facts Say Otherwise

Maggie Wilderotter's "High Speed" Fantasies

Frontier Communications CEO Maggie Wilderotter wrote this week the company’s network improvements and expanded broadband has moved West Virginia from the bottom five states in the country to the top five.

In an Op-Ed editorial published in the Charleston Gazette Tuesday, Wilderotter likened Frontier’s broadband improvement to the 1960s moon program.  Customers in West Virginia living with Frontier broadband can relate — to the 1960s anyway.

Where did Wilderotter get her information?  Perhaps from Frontier’s own Dan Waldo, who made the same claim last summer in an interview with MetroNews Talkline.  At the time he said it, West Virginia was ranked 47th in the country for broadband access.  It now ranks even lower today — 53rd by the federal government’s national broadband map (the federal government also ranks U.S. territories and possessions.)  In fact, West Virginia is in dead last place among U.S. states.  Only Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are worse.

This chart ranks the percentage of customers within a state receiving a minimum of 3Mbps download speeds and upload rates of at least 768kbps. (Source: National Broadband Speed Map/National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Federal Communications Commission )

The Center for Public Integrity is slightly more generous.  It ranked West Virginia 46th in broadband subscriptions.

Even Ookla, which analyzes millions of speed tests, tanked West Virginia, noting the average download speed is among the lowest of all 50 states at just 8Mbps, and that number seems high because it includes the state’s largest cable operators — the providers that actually deliver substantial broadband speeds.

Frontier’s contribution to West Virginia’s broadband improvement effort is measurable and noteworthy, at least for rural residents who can’t get broadband service any other way.  But many customers living with Frontier sure wish they could.

The company is expanding slow speed DSL service (1-3Mbps) to an increasing number of rural homes, but it does not come cheap.  On a megabit by megabit basis, all of the state’s cable providers deliver better value — more speed for the buck, when examining the actual “out the door price” that includes taxes, modem rental fees, and surcharges.  Frontier charges all of the above.

While Frontier delivers an average speed of 2.41Mbps in West Virginia, Comcast delivers more than 13Mbps.  Among wired providers, Frontier remains in last place.  Ookla shows some minor improvements in broadband speed, perhaps attributable to the network upgrades Wilderotter wrote about, but every other wired provider in the state performs better than Frontier’s DSL.  Who did worse?  Sprint’s 3G/4G wireless network and Wildblue, a satellite Internet Service Provider.

Average download speed performance of ISPs within West Virginia. (Source: Ookla; Graph Period: October 2009 - April 2012)

Wilderotter:

Broadband connectivity throughout all of America can be the thread that unites us all and helps pull our nation up again. Over the past two years in West Virginia, Frontier has worked with the state to bring broadband to thousands of residents and businesses. We have invested in a fiber backbone infrastructure that connects cities, libraries, schools, hospitals and government service facilities. The network improvements and the access to broadband have moved West Virginia from the bottom five states in the country to the top five. Economic development has picked up, and entrepreneurship is alive and well. Frontier is focused on taking this model to the other rural areas we serve throughout the United States.

Frontier’s efforts to expand broadband in a state its predecessor Verizon underserved for years is admirable and the company has indeed expanded service to areas that never had access before.  But as broadband rankings illustrate, Frontier’s incremental efforts are being overshadowed by more dramatic service and technology improvements in other states — the primary reason West Virginia is actually ranking worse than ever.  Frontier is not fooling anyone promoting its institutional fiber broadband networks ordinary West Virginians cannot access from their homes or businesses.  Our own readers tell us the company has repeatedly missed deployment schedules, broken promises, reduced speeds, and suffers from a woefully oversold network that slows to an intolerable crawl during peak usage periods.

Getting West Virginia among the top-five broadband states will require:

  • Major investments in fiber optics into neighborhoods and homes.  All of the highest ranked states receive fiber to the home and/or fiber to the neighborhood service in larger cities, and faster DSL than what Frontier routinely sells West Virginians;
  • An upgrade of the state’s broadband backbone to better manage increasing Internet usage during peak usage periods;
  • Additional penetration of competing technologies into more rural areas.  Cable and fiber broadband deliver the fastest speeds, but most rural areas are bypassed.  Frontier will need to deploy faster and better service to dramatically improve the state’s broadband ranking.

Currently there are 4 comments on this Article:

  1. truthmonger says:

    Here at the periphery of the mid-Ohio valley, I have I-77 and giant illuminated billboards practically in my backyard. I live ten minutes from Suddenlink and Frontier’s nearest service areas. My internet options? Cell network. Dial-up won’t even work here any longer, such is the state Verizon left us in. I’d happily pay $50 a month for cable service from ten years ago. As for Frontier’s plans, well, it depends on who answers the phone at their office. Its definitely a change from Verizon’s service reps, who were at least professional – its more like talking to Mabel down at the switchboard. They nearly always blame any service outage (or the five-day wait to get your phone line restored) on the fact that most of their engineers are working on broadband rollouts and associated upgrades. That’s right: they will tell you verbatim that your phone will be out for over a week because they haven’t hired enough staff. With Verizon my phone was out maybe four days annually, and the longest i ever waited for restoration was three days..after a bad storm, no less. Meanwhile my sister has just gotten DSL service, with a blazing 300kbps, and they’ve convinced her that my area will be getting it in a month or so. How am I gonna get DSL when my lines sound like there’s a thunderstorm trapped in them, and the phone is out for nearly three weeks of every year??? Are they actually upgrading the lines, because nobody I know of has ever seen or heard of them doing linework except to replace broken or stolen cable. Now, having said all that, if they can deliver 300kbps broadband for under $50 a month without a contract, I’ll jump on it – that’s far better than what I have currently. However, with Frontier’s service record and the endless horror stories, I’ll probably be praying hard as I give them my CC#.

  2. DJ says:

    haha, Typical Frontier lies continue i see.

    i’m in North Carolina now and I’m happy with my current situation. We did get a bill the other day from Frontier wanting over $300 for ‘early termination’. Apparently my contract was renewed, yet I never signed anything agreeing to it. They won’t be getting that money from us.

  3. Jace says:

    I’m actually one of the people forced to deal with Frontier in rural WV. When the service works, its really good. But it got to the point to where I had to buy an aftermarket N router to try to eliminate all problems. And it worked….for 3 weeks. Then the phantom secondary signal labeled ‘Frontier Wireless’, began popping up a week ago and it cut all speeds by 3/4s. And of course, they won’t even acknowledge what it is or speak about it…the secondary signal that is. But I have a wi-fi analyzer that I can show anyone that wants to see, that once that secondary signal shows up…..it drops our normal Frontier signal. I don’t even have to use the analyzer at times because I can actually see the bars on my computer drop and go back up. I have a work ticket that must be completed by Monday April 23rd. So we’ll see if it actually gets done…..

    • Smith6612 says:

      I’ve been hearing about the Wireless networks Frontier has been deploying in some areas for a little while now. By any chance has Frontier been putting up Wireless APs around your area up on the poles? Sounds like their gear is causing some interference with your network if that’s when you started seeing issues, which is sort of expected considering it’s an unlicensed band and the gear is rated to operate with some interference but avoid excessive interference. What you describe is not too uncommon at all. I see many of the Wireless routers in my neighborhood disappear from the list of networks when there’s heavy traffic (I’m fortunate enough to be on my own channel) which Wireshark confirms. Can see mostly encrypted data flying in the air by the boatload on those nights. I’ve also seen campgrounds in rural Michigan have their Wi-Fi networks completely drowned out by other devices on the same spectrum; Microwaves, Baby Monitors, Mi-Fis, and of course, the local WISP having their base of operations not even a mile away.

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