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1,400 Frontier Workers Walk Off the Job In West Virginia, Virginia

Phillip Dampier March 5, 2018 Consumer News, Frontier, Video 2 Comments

After 10 months of negotiations between Frontier Communications and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) over the phone company’s job cuts, 1,400 Frontier workers in West Virginia and Ashburn, Va., walked off the job Sunday.

The Communications Workers of America claims they have been unable to reach an agreement on a fair contract with Frontier despite three extensions. The original contract expired in August, 2017. The CWA claims their members have waited long enough and called a strike.

“We have been very clear throughout the bargaining process that our top priority is keeping good jobs in our communities,” said Ed Mooney, vice president of CWA District 2-13. “Going on strike is never easy. It’s a hardship for our members and the customers who we are proud to serve. But the job cuts at Frontier have gone too far — we know it and Frontier’s customers know it. It’s time for Frontier to start investing in maintaining and rebuilding its network in West Virginia.”

The CWA claims Frontier has let go of some of its most experienced technicians while outsourcing an increasing number of jobs to outside contractors. Frontier has also cut over 500 jobs in the area since 2012 and has announced a plan for additional layoffs this month. The union claims Frontier’s customers are suffering too.

“We’re taking a stand,” said Johnny Bailey, president of CWA Local 2226 in Bluefield. “Customers are waiting way too long to have their problems resolved, and too often we’re back fixing the same problems over and over again. Frontier is leaving West Virginia behind. The network has been neglected and there are just not enough experienced, well-trained workers left to handle the service requests.”

According to CWA, complaints filed with the West Virginia Public Service Commission have increased steadily over the past three years, rising 69% from 639 in 2014 to 1,072 complaints in 2017.

“The complaints at Frontier have risen so high in the last few years it is has gotten to the point [… where] we are embarrassed by the product that we have to serve,” said Jeff Anderson, president of CWA Local 2004, which covers large parts of north-central West Virginia, including Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Taylor, and Doddridge counties. “In some areas we have good service but we beg for that and we ask the company and we will do anything we can to get our people better service cause ultimately that is what keeps our jobs.”

Frontier countered the company is already extremely generous with its workforce.

“Frontier is one of West Virginia’s best employers,” the company said in a statement. “Average annual wages for the Company’s union employees exceed $64,500, and more than half of all union employees earn more than $75,000 per year. For comprehensive family medical coverage, most employees pay less than $150 per month for family coverage, with no annual deductible and low co-pays. Including employee benefits, the Company’s average employee cost per CWA member is more than $100,000.”

Frontier said it has activated its strike contingency plan, which will require Frontier’s management, outside contractors and Frontier employees from other areas to handle service calls and other tasks formerly done by striking workers.

Customers can expect to encounter Frontier’s picket lines in several places:

CWA Local 2001

  • 1500 MacCorkle Ave., Charleston, WV
  • 9542 Route 152, Wayne, WV
  • 601 5th Street, New Haven, WV
  • 215 Clay Street, St Marys, WV
  • 32 Craddock Way, Poca, WV
  • 518 Main St, Clay, WV
  • 66 North Pinch Road, Elkview, WV
CWA Local 2002

  • 1014 Old Logan Road, Logan, WV
  • 405 Hinchman St., Logan, WV
  • 58 Resource Lane, Foster, WV
  • 501 Logan St., Williamson, WV
  • 305 Main St., Man, WV
  • Franklin Ave., Madison, WV
CWA Local 2004

  • 1325 Airport Blvd., Morgantown, WV
  • 145 Fayette St., Morgantown, WV
  • Collins Ferry Rd. and University Ave., Suncrest, WV
  • 289 Pricketts Fort Rd., Fairmont, WV
  • 214 Monroe St., Fairmont, WV
CWA Local 2006

  • 3000 West St., Weirton, WV
  • 910 3rd St., New Martinsville, WV
  • 995 Mt De Chantal Rd., Wheeling, WV
  • 1515 Chapline St., Wheeling, WV
  • 115 Pike St., Weirton Heights, WV
CWA Local 2007

  • 435 Maplewood Ave., Lewisburg, WV
  • 120 Appalachian Dr., Beckley, WV
  • 200 Woodlawn Ave., Beckley, WV
  • 209 Chestnut Ave., Oak Hill, WV
  • 3215 Mountaineer Hwy., Maben, WV
CWA Local 2009

  • 1135 6th Ave., Huntington, WV
  • 4500 Altizer Ave., Huntington, WV
  • 1285 W Main St., Milton, WV
  • 2018 Mt Vernon Ave., Pt Pleasant, WV
CWA Local 2010

  • 280 North Baxter St., Sutton, WV
  • 134 Center Ave., Weston, WV
  • 355 Dewberry Trail, Buckhannon, WV
  • 34 South Florida St., Buckhannon, WV
  • 525 Davis Ave., Elkins, WV
CWA Local 2011

  • 483 Brushy Fork Rd., Bridgeport, WV
  • 428 W Main St., Clarksburg, WV
CWA Local 2105

  • 117 Tavern Rd., Martinsburg, WV
  • 200 Carskadon Lane, Keyser, WV
CWA Local 2276

  • 300 Bland St., Bluefield, WV
  • 226 Labrador Dr., Bluefield, WV
  • 401 Lazenby Ave., Princeton, WV
  • 917 Harrison St., Princeton, WV
  • 257 Virginia Ave., Welch, WV
  • Route 52 – 18774 Coal Heritage Rd., Welch, WV

WBOY-TV in Clarksburg talks with a Frontier worker about the strike and the quality of Frontier’s service in West Virginia. (1:48)


Frontier Communications Under Investigation in Minnesota for “Lousy Service”

Phillip Dampier March 2, 2018 Consumer News, Frontier, Public Policy & Gov't, Video No Comments

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) has opened an inquiry into whether Frontier Communications is meeting its service obligations to customers after receiving a major spike in complaints about the phone company.

The MPUC acknowledged it has been “receiving a large volume of complaints related to the service quality, customer service, and billing practices of Frontier Communications.” The regulator is concerned that “after attempts to mediate these complaints, many of them remain unresolved.”

The investigation will include the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Minnesota’s Attorney General, both tasked with determining if Frontier is complying with MPUC rules and Minnesota state law.

Frontier provides service to more than 98,000 landlines in Minnesota, doing business as Frontier Communications and Citizens Telecommunications. Most Frontier customers are located in northeastern and southern Minnesota, as well as communities like Apple Valley, Burnsville, Farmington, and Rosemount.

A survey of filed complaints found many involved Frontier’s DSL internet service, which customers complained was slow and prone to frequent outages. Other complaints involved inaccurate billing and missed service calls, which sometimes led to delays of days or weeks before service could be restored.

“I’d heard a bunch of complaints of poor service all across my district,” said Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-International Falls) in a news release. “I am a Frontier customer myself, and the service has been lousy.”

Other customers had their complaints published in the Timberjay newspaper, which has been the unofficial meeting place for frustrated customers who cannot get satisfaction from Frontier.

“This has been the worst service experience of my life,” said Melissa Holmes, of Embarrass in northeastern Minnesota. “My whole neighborhood here on Wahlsten Road in Embarrass has had service issues with Frontier for decades. Repeated calls to the company go nowhere.”

The newspaper blamed Frontier’s wrong priorities in a scathing editorial last fall:

Prospects for an improvement in Frontier’s service quality appear unlikely given the increasingly tenuous financial condition of the company. Frontier went deeply in debt in early 2016, when it completed an $11 billion purchase of landline infrastructure formerly owned by Verizon in California, Texas, and Florida. The acquisition more than doubled the size of the company, but also prompted a major restructuring, which included significant layoffs.

Frontier officials had touted the acquisition at the time, arguing that the company knew how to make money from traditional landline infrastructure even as the industry is rapidly transitioning to wireless. But the company has yet to demonstrate it is up to the challenge and as complaints over poor service have mounted, the company has hemorrhaged customers, particularly in more populated regions, where customers often have viable alternatives.

In response, Frontier claims it updated its billing software and is making “process improvements” in the way it conducts business.

If you live in Minnesota and wish to share your views with the MPUC, you can visit their website, register, and comment until May 25, 2018.

The state’s initial investigation and report on Frontier is due on May 11.

KSTP-TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul reports Frontier is under investigation by the state telecom regulator for poor service. (2:21)

Troubled Frontier Suspends Shareholder Dividend, Loses $1.01 Billion in the Last Quarter

Phillip Dampier February 27, 2018 Consumer News, Frontier, Rural Broadband 2 Comments

Despite the massive amount of extra money from the Trump Administration’s corporate tax cuts generating huge revenue spikes for America’s telecom companies, Frontier Communications disappointed investors with today’s news it was suspending its quarterly cash dividend to shareholders after reporting a net loss of $1.03 billion on revenue of $2.2 billion during the fourth quarter of 2017, despite a $830 million tax benefit resulting from the reduction in federal tax rates.

Frontier saw revenue declines across almost every product category: Data and Internet services, $939 million (down 7.3%); Voice services, $687 million (down 11.2%); Video services, $310 million (down 15.1%), but the company slightly improved its churn rate (customers coming and going) to 1.83% for Frontier Legacy service areas (areas not acquired from Verizon or AT&T) and 2.22% for customers in California, Texas, and Florida acquired from Verizon (compared with 1.92% and 2.33% respectively in the third quarter of 2017).

The losses are attributable to:

  • Frontier DSL is not competitive with cable broadband in most Frontier Legacy service areas. Cable companies continue to steal customers away with better value broadband packages at much faster speeds;
  • Frontier FiOS delivers much better internet speeds, but customers in former Verizon service areas are upset about poor customer service and on-time repair visits and billing errors;
  • Frontier landline customers have been disconnecting for years, especially in copper-only service areas.
  • Frontier FiOS TV customers are getting better pricing and promotional deals from competing cable and satellite providers, or are cutting the cord entirely.

The average Frontier Legacy customer pays $65.11 a month. Customers with Frontier FiOS in California, Texas, and Florida pay an average of $107.35 a month.

Despite the anemic results, Frontier CEO Daniel McCarthy was optimistic.

“Our fourth quarter results highlight the ongoing progress on our key initiatives to improve customer retention, enhance the customer experience, and align our cost structure,” McCarthy said in a press release. “We are pleased with continued improvement in subscriber trends and churn in our California, Texas and Florida (CTF) markets, and the continued operating efficiencies achieved in the fourth quarter.”

But McCarthy rattled investors with news Frontier’s board of directors had voted to suspend the company’s dividend payout to shareholders, one of the key reasons investors buy Frontier common stock. Frontier intends to use the $250 million it would have handed shareholders to pay down the company’s massive debts.

In 2018, Frontier will pay more in interest on its outstanding debt ($1.5 billion) than it will spend on network upgrades and other capital expenditures ($1.0 billion to $1.15 billion). Most of the company’s debt comes from Frontier’s aggressive history of acquisitions, buying landline service areas from Verizon and AT&T.

Despite predictions by Frontier’s executives that its $10+ billion acquisition of Verizon service areas in California, Texas and Florida would deliver dramatically better results for Frontier and its shareholders, a botched transition and ongoing complaints about poor customer service and billing errors alienated Frontier’s adopted customers. Many canceled service and have no plans to return.

With Frontier’s financial condition concerning some financial analysts, Frontier is considering selling off its newest service areas to raise money.

Bloomberg: Frontier Preparing to Sell Its Florida, Texas, and California Service Areas

Phillip Dampier February 5, 2018 Consumer News, Frontier 2 Comments

Frontier Communications, mired in $18 billion in debt, is preparing to sell a package of landline assets in California, Texas, and Florida the company acquired just two years ago in a $10.5 billion deal.

A Bloomberg News report indicated the sale is part of an effort to boost available funds and repair a damaged business plan that has left the company with a massive debt load and an ongoing departure of customers unhappy with Frontier’s products and services.

Frontier has posted falling revenue for the last five consecutive quarters and the company has spent much of 2017 attempting to borrow more money and refinance the debt it already has, accumulated in part from its acquisitions of sold-off wireline assets owned by AT&T (Connecticut) and Verizon (multiple states).

Frontier has a poor record of successfully transferring customers to the company’s billing and backend systems, which has often caused service disruptions and billing errors. Bad publicity followed Frontier in Texas, Florida and California where the company acquired 3.7 million new voice lines, 2.2 million broadband customers, and 1.2 million FiOS accounts.

What makes Frontier’s properties in those three states valuable is the widespread availability of fiber-to-the-home service. Potential buyers, including private equity firms and other non-traditional bidders, see a future in providing valuable fiber backhaul connectivity to forthcoming 5G wireless networks, which require fiber connections deep into neighborhoods to connect small cell technology with the provider’s network.

Bloomberg reports the assets are likely to be split up and sold in parts, instead of a single package. That could mean Frontier will sell off each state independently or the split could be based on technology, with fiber assets sold separately from Frontier’s acquired copper wire networks in the three states. Frontier may have trouble finding buyers for legacy copper service areas that have never been upgraded with fiber optic service. Frontier is also increasingly unlikely to upgrade those areas itself.

Frontier’s Massive 911 Failure Across Florida’s West Coast; Admits It Had No Backup

Phillip Dampier February 1, 2018 Consumer News, Frontier, Public Policy & Gov't, Video 7 Comments

Several Bay Area counties in western Florida were without 911 service for several hours Wednesday after two failures at Frontier Communications left residents without any way to call for help.

There first outage began around midnight and the second started at around 10am Wednesday morning. Both outages took about two hours each to troubleshoot and repair.

Local officials criticized Frontier for service disruptions that had the potential for disaster for residents across the area.

“It’s definitely frustrating, yes,” said Jacob Saur, Manatee County Emergency Communications Center chief. “The main concern is if someone is needing help from first responders and they can’t get that help, then, we have a big problem.”

Frontier’s 911 system is supposed to run over two different networks to provide redundancy in case of an outage. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the company mistakenly connected its two networks together, with no backup workaround.

“For some reason, those two pieces were combined to one network,” said Frontier spokesperson Bob Elek. “So. when that one network was touched or impacted, it took both of them down. It took the service. The problem is a strange one. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like this before unless there was massive network damage. So, it should be an easy one to repair and fix so it doesn’t happen again and we will definitely do it.”

The first outage was traced to routine network maintenance of CenturyLink/Level 3-owned equipment affected by a Florida road project near Clewiston. The second outage occurred because of a fiber cable cut.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan can’t believe Frontier did not have a proper contingency plan in place to deal with critical 911 service.

“There will still have to be some answers on why there was no redundancy, what type of disaster recovery program there was,” Dugan told WTVT in Tampa.

Frontier claims it is moving away from copper wire routing of 911 calls and claims it will route future 911 calls through the internet.

“Using that old technology of copper wire to route 911 calls is going to go away,” said Saur. “So, we are preparing for the future by routing 911 calls through the internet. However, it takes time to get that in place.”

WTVT in Tampa reports Frontier had no backup plan for Wednesday’s 911 outage that interrupted service in multiple counties. (2:55)

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