Recent Articles:

Tribune Media Ends Merger Deal, Sues Sinclair for $1 Billion for Scamming Regulators

Tribune Media walked away from its $3.9 billion dollar merger agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group this morning, and announced it would sue Sinclair for $1 billion for its conduct trying to get the deal approved, including withholding information and deceiving regulators.

The merger deal was controversial from the moment it was announced, pairing up Sinclair’s 192 stations with Tribune’s 42 TV stations in 33 markets, including well-known stations like WGN in Chicago and WPIX in New York. Sinclair was already the nation’s top TV station owner, and to acquire more stations, Sinclair would have to get TV ownership limits eased, something coincidentally provided by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who suddenly announced an interest in bringing back a “discount” on ownership caps for stations broadcasting on the UHF band. That policy was dropped after the country moved to digital over-the-air broadcasting, which negated the perception that UHF channels were less desirable and held lower value than lower VHF channels because of reception quality.

Sinclair’s Long History of Partisan Politics

Sinclair, unlike other TV station owners, also has a long history of being active in partisan politics, airing programming in favor of conservatives and openly advocating for the agendas of the Bush and Trump Administrations. Its long-standing policy to require its stations to air corporate-produced news segments and commentaries during local newscasts has irritated local newsrooms for years, but as the number of Sinclair-owned stations has grown, the practice was eventually exposed with a viral video depicting an uncomfortable collection of anchors from dozens of Sinclair stations decrying “fake news.”

In 2016, Sinclair aired 1,723 stories about the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah on 64 of its stations. Most were designed to look like one or two minute news stories, although Sinclair also produced a 30-minute show about the facility. What viewers were never told is that the stories were paid for by the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. In December, the FCC fined Sinclair a record-breaking $13.3 million for failing to disclose the story’s sponsor. The Democratic minority on the Commission called that a slap on the wrist and wanted the maximum fine of $82 million levied on Sinclair for its egregious and flagrant violation of FCC rules.

Sinclair’s past run-ins and controversies guaranteed its merger deal with Tribune would receive special scrutiny. The documents attached to the lawsuit filed this morning reveal Tribune got quickly upset with Sinclair’s hardball lobbying, accusing Sinclair of brazenly flouting the FCC’s rules and setting up the merger for failure.

In the end, even Sinclair’s apparent ally Ajit Pai distanced himself from the TV station owner in July, suddenly advocating the merger deal be forwarded to an administrative law judge for review, a sure sign the merger was in serious trouble with regulators.

Tribune Takes Sinclair to Court

This morning, Tribune officially pulled the plug on the merger.

“Our merger cannot be completed within an acceptable time frame, if ever,” Tribune Media chief executive Peter Kern said in a statement. “This uncertainty and delay would be detrimental to our company and our shareholders. Accordingly, we have exercised our right to terminate the merger agreement, and, by way of our lawsuit, intend to hold Sinclair accountable.”

That accountability will come in the form of its lawsuit that includes revealing documents about Sinclair’s behavior during the merger process, which includes allegations Sinclair recklessly withheld information and deceived the FCC and Justice Department about the transaction. If true, that could threaten Sinclair’s fitness to hold FCC licenses for its TV stations.

“From virtually the moment the Merger Agreement was signed, Sinclair repeatedly and willfully breached its contractual obligations in spectacular fashion,” Tribune said in its lawsuit. “In an effort to maintain control over stations it was obligated to sell if advisable to obtain regulatory clearance, Sinclair engaged in belligerent and unnecessarily protracted negotiations with DOJ and the FCC over regulatory requirements, refused to sell stations in the ten specified markets required to obtain approval, and proposed aggressive divestment structures and related-party sales that were either rejected outright or posed a high risk of rejection and delay – all in the service of Sinclair’s self-interest and in derogation of its contractual obligations.”

Tribune claims Sinclair only favored its own financial interests, not the obligations it had to Tribune to get the merger deal approved as quickly as possible. Tribune also accused Sinclair of threatening, insulting, and misleading regulators to keep control over stations it was obligated to sell.

The Sinclair Broadcast Group has come under fire following the spread of a video showing anchors at its stations across the United States reading a script criticizing “fake” news stories. (8:03)

“Sue me.”

Tribune’s executives gradually became more alarmed the more Sinclair negotiated with regulators, claiming Sinclair antagonized officials at the Justice Department. Tribune notes the assistant attorney general of the antitrust division got an earful from Sinclair, lecturing the official that he “completely misunderstand[ood]” the broadcast industry and was “more regulatory” than any recent predecessor.

When Sinclair was cornered by the Department of Justice over demands for station divestitures, the company summarized its position in two words: “sue me.”

Tribune pointed out the Justice Department was prepared to accept the merger with the appropriate stations being sold to new owners, but Sinclair balked. After a series of schemes were suggested to partly divest the stations, Tribune saw the protracted negotiations as unnecessary and imprudent. The agendas of both companies were radically different. Tribune wanted Sinclair to do whatever the FCC and Justice Department insisted be done, to get the deal done quickly. Sinclair wanted the deal and a way to maintain control, even indirectly, over almost every station involved in the deal. Tribune began threatening to sue Sinclair if it did not agree to the Justice Department’s terms.

Tribune’s growing unease with Sinclair’s behavior culminated in this email exchange between Tribune and Sinclair executives in late December, 2017.

Sinclair finally relented in February, 2018, but only partially. Exasperated Tribune executives were stunned as Sinclair now proposed to sell stations to third parties that maintained “significant ties to Sinclair’s executive chairman,” David Smith, or his family.

“Sinclair would effectively control all aspects of station operations, including advertising sales and negotiation of retransmission agreements with cable and satellite operators,” Tribune said in its lawsuit. “Under these proposed arrangements, Sinclair would continue to reap the lion’s share of the economic benefits of the stations it was purportedly ‘divesting’ and would have an option to repurchase the stations in the future.”

“Sinclair fought, threatened, insulted, and misled regulators in a misguided and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to retain control over stations that it was obligated to sell,” the lawsuit concludes.

The country’s largest owner of local TV stations, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which reaches over a third of homes across the nation, wanted to get even bigger by merging with the Tribune Media Company. Sinclair is raising concerns among media watchers because of its practice of combining news with partisan political opinion. William Brangham reports for PBS Newshour. (8:58)

GOP Rival for Governor of New York Backs Charter Spectrum; Calls Cuomo “Putin on the Hudson”

Molinaro

Charter Communications has found itself an ally in Marc Molinaro, Republican candidate for New York’s governor, who attacked Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday for ordering the removal of Spectrum from New York State.

“We’ve got a megalomaniac on our hands, a veritable ‘Putin on the Hudson,'” Molinaro charged, defending the cable company for being attacked by the governor and “his surrogates” for political purposes.

Cuomo “put his thumb on the scale of a major PSC decision,” said Molinaro. “I think Andrew Cuomo got furious with NY1 News and effectively pulled the plug on an entire cable system as punishment to NY1, and as a warning to others he can affect who dare to ask him tough questions.”

Molinaro has repeatedly claimed the Public Service Commission is in the back pocket of the governor’s office.

Cuomo vs. NY1 – Spectrum’s 24-hour news channel in New York City

Molinaro’s campaign has been critical of an ongoing spat between the governor and reporters from NY1, Spectrum’s 24-hour news channel in New York City.

Earlier this month, Cuomo bristled at a question about improper campaign contributions from Crystal Run Healthcare, a health insurance provider in Middletown. NY1 reporter Zack Fink asked if the governor was considering returning those contributions and launching an internal investigation.

Gov. Cuomo

GOV. CUOMO: […] If the ongoing investigation finds any fraud, then as we’ve always done, we will return the donations. That’s standard operating procedure. We’re doing it in this case; we’ve always done it.

But speaking of fraud, Charter Spectrum has been executing fraud on the people of this state. They were given a franchise for a very specific set of conditions. It is a very valuable franchise. Many companies could have been given the franchise. Charter Spectrum said that they would increase cable access to the poor and rural communities around the state. That was the condition of them getting the franchise. I promised this state 100% high-speed broadband. Why? Because high-speed broadband is going to be the great equalizer, the great democratizer.

Whether you’re a business, an individual, you’re going to need high-speed broadband to be competitive. Charter Spectrum defrauded this state. They are defrauding consumers. Charter Spectrum is running ads that say we are ahead of schedule and at no cost to the taxpayer. The Public Service Commission said they’re behind schedule, not on schedule, and certainly not ahead of schedule. And to say it is no cost to the taxpayers is also a fraud, because that’s the condition upon which the taxpayers gave you the franchise. So you are defrauding the people of this state. That’s a fraud.

Fink

ZACK FINK (NY1): You said the PSC is looking into new operators. Is it the PSC’s place to do that or is it the market’s?

GOV. CUOMO: Are you speaking on behalf of Charter Spectrum or yourself?

ZACK FINK (NY1): No, I’m just asking a question. You brought it up so I’m curious. You said Friday that the PSC was looking at potential new operators.

GOV. CUOMO: Well, the Public Service Commission is saying that Charter Spectrum violated their franchise agreement. If you violate your franchise agreement, then you lose the franchise agreement and then they would have to find another operator without disruption to any of the consumers or the good workers of Charter Spectrum.

Viewers of NY1, a Spectrum News channel, never saw this exchange, which was widely covered elsewhere by the New York media. Viewers also didn’t see an on-the-record call-in by the governor made later than day to NY1’s newsroom to discuss the exchange. News of the call leaked after nobody at NY1 would publicly discuss it or why the news channel refused to air it.

Cuomo’s opponents on both his left and right criticized the governor over his treatment of the NY1 reporter.

“I’ll come right out and say it. It looks to me like Andrew Cuomo is trying to send a chilling message to the news media, ’don’t mess with me’, and I hope the inspector general can prove me wrong,” Molinaro said in a statement.

This week, Molinaro turned up the heat by claiming the governor was “acting more like a third-world dictator trying to intimidate the news media into dropping stories than an elected democratic leader who respects the First Amendment and has nothing to fear from it.”

Cynthia Nixon, running for the Democratic nomination to the left of Cuomo politically, claimed his chastising of NY1 reporters was out of line, resembling how Donald Trump treats the press.

“Cuomo can’t hold himself up as New York’s answer to Donald Trump, and simultaneously threaten members of the press for doing their job,” Nixon said, asking the governor to apologize.

Cuomo’s spokesman Rich Azzopardi claimed the ongoing criticism of Charter is nothing new for Gov. Cuomo.

“The governor answered his question and made the same statement that he has made to Charter Spectrum reporters and reporters statewide numerous times over the past few months, communicating the facts of the state’s two-year dispute with Charter for failing to serve the citizens of the state,” Azzopardi said.

Cuomo has made offhand remarks about Charter since the company replaced Time Warner Cable in 2016. He criticized NY1 and other Spectrum News stations around the state for not covering the IBEW strike against the cable company or a lawsuit filed by the state attorney general over the cable company’s failure to deliver on advertised broadband speeds.

“They virtually blacked it out,” Cuomo said of Spectrum News during a press event held on the day the PSC voted to drop Charter as a provider in New York.

Azzopardi also denied Molinaro’s accusation that the governor was involved in the PSC’s decision to force Charter to leave New York and dismissed the Republican opponent for spreading unproven “conspiracy theories.”

Cuomo is widely expected to be re-elected, with both Nixon and Molinaro running significantly behind the governor in polls. The primary is on Sept. 13.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo discusses Charter’s broken promises to New York State during a visit to Rochester, N.Y.  (Courtesy: Democrat & Chronicle) (2:28)

FCC’s Inspector General Finds Chairman Ajit Pai Made Up Claimed Denial of Service Attack

Phillip Dampier August 7, 2018 Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't 2 Comments

Pai

The FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai “misrepresented facts and provided misleading responses” to the public and Congress about an alleged “distributed denial of service attack” (DDoS) that caused the FCC’s website to crash as millions of Americans shared their comments about net neutrality.

In a damning report released today by the FCC’s independent Inspector General, an investigation found the claimed attack never happened and the FCC’s ongoing public statements about it were demonstrably false.

The investigation into the alleged “attack” on the FCC’s electronic comment system (ECFS) on May 7-8, 2017 took several months to complete. Its findings were released after Pai was able to issue a broadly distributed press release critics claim is an effort to change the story and get ahead of the report itself, which was issued late this afternoon.

A DDoS attack overwhelms a website with a barrage of invalid traffic that eventually makes the target server unresponsive. The FCC claimed the attack was responsible for preventing people from leaving comments for hours after John Oliver brought up the subject of net neutrality on his HBO Show “Last Week Tonight” last year.

But in fact, it was the sheer volume of comments from the public that were responsible for slowing down the website — a politically inconvenient fact for net neutrality opponents (including Pai).

Highlights from the Inspector General’s 106-page report:

On May 7, 2017, at 11:30 pm EDT, the ECFS experienced a significant increase in the level of traffic attempting to access the system, resulting in the disruption of system availability. In fact, information obtained from, a contractor providing web performance and cloud security solutions to the FCC, identified a 3,116% increase in traffic to ECFS between May 7 and May 8, 2017.

The investigation matched traffic spikes to John Oliver’s show airing and the posting of videos and social media announcements about net neutrality.

On May 8, 2017, the FCC issued a press release in which the FCC’s former Chief Information Officer (CIO) Dr. David Bray provided the following statement regarding the cause of delays experienced by consumers trying to file comments on ECFS:

“Beginning on Sunday night at midnight, our analysis reveals that the FCC was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS)[2]. These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host. These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC. While the comment system remained up and running the entire time, these DDoS events tied up the servers and prevented them from responding to people attempting to submit comments. We have worked with our commercial partners to address this situation and will continue to monitor developments going forward.”

Our investigation did not substantiate the allegations of multiple DDoS attacks alleged by Bray. While we identified a small amount of anomalous activity and could not entirely rule out the possibility of individual DoS attempts during the period from May 7 through May 9, 2017, we do not believe this activity resulted in any measurable degradation of system availability given the miniscule scale of the anomalous activity relative to the contemporaneous voluminous viral traffic.

Here is what a net neutrality campaign going viral looks like. As Oliver’s show reached more viewers, many took time to visit the FCC’s website to submit comments, causing the server to slow to a crawl.

The degradation of ECFS system availability was likely the result of a combination of: (1) “flash crowd” activity resulting from the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episode that aired on May 7, 2017 through the links provided by that program for filing comments in the proceeding; and (2) high volume traffic resulting from system design issues.

The conclusion that the event involved multiple DDoS attacks was not based on substantive analysis and ran counter to other opinions including those of the ECFS subject matter expert and the Chief of Staff.

As a result of our reviews and the findings articulated above, we determined the FCC, relying on Bray’s explanation of the events, misrepresented facts and provided misleading responses to Congressional inquiries related to this incident.

The fact millions of Americans were willing to visit a little-known FCC comment website to share their passionate views on net neutrality ran contrary to Chairman Pai’s claims that many comments were faked, demonstrated a lack of understanding of how net neutrality worked, or were otherwise not to be taken seriously. Pai even called net neutrality supporters “Chicken Littles” during a July 25 congressional hearing.

Pai’s public statements downplaying public comments on net neutrality might lose credibility if the FCC admitted the issue of net neutrality went viral and Americans were sharing their views in unprecedented numbers. Instead, the FCC repeatedly questioned the veracity of the comments, claimed an engineered attack — not dissent — caused the website to crash, and refused to participate in an investigation with the New York Attorney General’s office to uncover the origin of the alleged attack.

Pai’s press release tried to shift attention away from this damning conclusion from the FCC’s Inspector General.

Pai, in an effort to get out ahead of the unflattering report from the Inspector General, issued a press release blaming the affair on the flawed “culture” of the Obama Administration.

“I am deeply disappointed that the FCC’s former Chief Information Officer (CIO), who was hired by the prior Administration and is no longer with the Commission, provided inaccurate information about this incident to me, my office, Congress, and the American people,” Pai said in a statement. “This is completely unacceptable. I’m also disappointed that some working under the former CIO apparently either disagreed with the information that he was presenting or had questions about it, yet didn’t feel comfortable communicating their concerns to me or my office.”

“Second, it has become clear that in addition to a flawed comment system, we inherited from the prior Administration a culture in which many members of the Commission’s career IT staff were hesitant to express disagreement with the Commission’s former CIO in front of FCC management,” Pai added.

Jessica Rosenworcel, the only remaining Democrat on the Commission, dismissed Pai’s attempts to lay blame for the problems on the former administration.

Bray – the scapegoat?

“The Inspector General Report tells us what we knew all along: the FCC’s claim that it was the victim of a DDoS attack during the net neutrality proceeding is bogus,” said Rosenworcel. “What happened instead is obvious—millions of Americans overwhelmed our online system because they wanted to tell us how important Internet openness is to them and how distressed they were to see the FCC roll back their rights. It’s unfortunate that this agency’s energy and resources needed to be spent debunking this implausible claim.”

Pai’s chief scapegoat is David Bray, the FCC’s chief information officer from 2013-2017. Pai accused Bray of misleading him and other FCC officials about the source of the slowdowns and interruptions on the website.

“Yes, we’re 99.9% confident this was external folks deliberately trying to tie-up the server to prevent others from commenting and/or create a spectacle,” Pai quoted Bray as telling him during the May 2017 incident. Bray also acted as an anonymous source for several reporters, claiming a similar DDoS attack occurred in 2014 over net neutrality, a claim hotly disputed by FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler at the time and called “flat-out false” by Gigi Sohn, a senior counselor to Wheeler.

Fact or Fiction?: Bray claimed 4Chan’s “troll” army was invited to the fight by John Oliver.

Bray also claimed, without evidence, John Oliver “invited the ‘trolls'” from controversial website 4Chan to participate in the attack, suggesting the posting of Oliver’s segment on net neutrality was what “triggered the trolls.”

An exhaustive investigation of the FCC’s traffic logs found no evidence of an orchestrated DDoS attack, and the Inspector General used charts to show tremendous traffic spikes generated as Oliver’s campaign went viral.

Pai’s press release attempts to change the subject and divert attention away from the uncomfortable findings that suggest the FCC under his leadership openly deceived both the public and Congress. Instead of admitting he allowed the agency to continue claiming an outside attack on the FCC’s website was responsible for the incident, he praised himself and his office for what he claimed were findings that “debunk the conspiracy theory that my office or I had any knowledge that the information provided by the former CIO was inaccurate and was allowing that inaccurate information to be disseminated for political purposes.”

That directly contradicts the reports conclusion: “As a result of our reviews and the findings articulated above, we determined the FCC, relying on Bray’s explanation of the events, misrepresented facts and provided misleading responses to Congressional inquiries related to this incident.”

Charter Spectrum Refuses to Air Political Ad Slamming Spectrum for High Rates

Brindisi’s ad has been “censored” by Charter Spectrum.

A Democratic candidate running for Congress in central New York cannot get his 30-second ad slamming New York’s biggest cable company on Spectrum’s cable channels.

Anthony Brindisi slammed Charter Communications for “censoring” his campaign by refusing to air his latest ad which claims Spectrum has almost doubled its rates since taking over for Time Warner Cable and has broken its promises to the state. Brindisi also accused his Republican opponent — incumbent Rep. Claudia Tenney — of siding with the cable company, and “voted to give the company a $9 billion tax cut while they were raising our rates.”

The fact that Brindisi opens his ad claiming, “if you’re watching this ad on Spectrum cable, you’re getting ripped off,” may have been partly responsible for Charter’s refusal to air his ad.

“The ad did not meet our criteria,” said Maureen Huff, a spokesperson for Charter Spectrum.

Rep. Tenney

But the ad is not factually inaccurate, just hyperbolic. Many Spectrum customers complained about steep rate increases switching between their original Time Warner Cable plans and new plans offered by Spectrum. Some customers needed to upgrade to higher tier cable TV packages to keep channels they would otherwise lose and the company’s ongoing digital conversion convinced many customers they needed to rent set-top boxes for every television in their home, at a substantial cost.

Brindisi’s claim that “Claudia Tenney’s campaign is bankrolled by Spectrum,” is slightly misplaced, although Charter Communications has spent $5,000 on contributions to her campaign in 2017. In fact, Comcast is her third largest contributor, spending $12,900 on her campaign so far during the 2017-2018 election cycle. The Koch Brothers, a cable industry ally, comes in fourth.

Brindisi hoped to air his ads in the Utica and Binghamton markets through Spectrum, but will have to spend more buying time on over the air channels. He says he doesn’t like Spectrum’s stranglehold on local views aired on cable channels.

“It’s a scary precedent for them to be setting just because I’ve been a vocal critic of the company,” Brindisi told the New York Times. “I don’t think I should be precluded from informing the public about their practices here in New York State and letting people know that, at the same time they are raising your cable rates, they are a big beneficiary of the tax bill and a major supporter of my opponent.”

Watch the 30-second advertisement Charter Spectrum refused to allow on its cable channels. Anthony Brindisi is a Democratic candidate for Congress in central New York (30 seconds)

Frontier’s Latest Salvation Plan Doesn’t Include Significant Broadband Upgrades

While celebrating its success at cutting $350 million in expenses, Frontier’s newest plan to keep the company from drifting towards bankruptcy is a $500 million increase in revenue (and hopefully profits) with a series of “revenue enhancements” and cost cutting.

Significant broadband upgrades in legacy DSL service areas are not on the table, as Frontier continues to spend most of its capital on matching Connect America Funds (CAF) and state grants to expand broadband into unserved and underserved rural areas.

“Approximately 80% of our capital program continues to focus on revenue generating and productivity enhancing projects,” said R. Perley McBride, Frontier’s outgoing chief financial officer. “The focus of our capital spending remains consistent. We continue to focus on our CAF builds, using both wired and wireless technologies.”

Frontier has been criticized by some for spending too much on its network and acquisitions and not enough on shareholder return. The company suspended its dividend in February, and the share price has remained below $6 a share since July. After announcing its latest quarterly results and a new $500 million EBITDA initiative on July 31, the average share price posted only modest gains of around $0.25 a share.

Frontier’s business remains troubled, with looming debt repayments in its future. The date to remember is Sept. 15, 2022 — the day Frontier needs to repay $2 billion in unsecured bonds to maintain its credibility in the credit markets. If it fails to pay, the company could find future financing difficult, which is often what triggers a trip to bankruptcy court.

The year 2022 is also very important to Californians. Frontier disclosed it planned to expand rural broadband service to 847,000 unserved/underserved rural residents by the end of 2022, with specific commitments in the next few years to upgrade 77,402 locations, in part with CAF funding, increase broadband speed for 250,000 households, and deploy newly available service to 100,000 homes.

Frontier’s own deployment goals in California — goals the company may not be honoring. (Image courtesy of: Steve Blum’s blog)

According to the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), Frontier has no intention of meeting its rural broadband commitments. In effect, similar to Charter Communications, it merely made the commitments to win approval of its acquisition of Verizon’s wireline and FiOS business in California.

A day of reckoning for the company’s alleged failure to meet its obligations is likely forthcoming. Steve Blum’s blog notes Frontier isn’t saying much:

In its formal response to CETF’s allegations, Frontier never actually says that it kept to that timetable. All it says is that “Frontier sent a letter to the Communication Division dated March 8, 2018 on its commitments that includes a confidential attachment reflecting completed locations through December 31, 2017”. It sent a letter, but doesn’t say what’s in the letter or even claim that the letter documents fulfillment of its obligations.

CETF told California regulators a disturbing story about Frontier’s failure to perform and other allegations in its filing with the California Public Utilities Commission, alleging Frontier is reneging on the deal it made with the state and various stakeholders in return for getting its acquisition approved. The group also accused Frontier of failing to deliver on its affordable broadband offering, because the company made signing up difficult and bundled extra fees and surcharges onto the bill.

“Frontier launched its existing affordable broadband offer in late August 2016 and to date only 9,173 adoptions have been achieved, a mere 4.5% of the 200,000 household adoption goal,” the CETF wrote. “Due to the initial Frontier eligibility requirement that Frontier customers be a telephone landline Lifeline subscriber and the total bundled cost, the affordable broadband offer has only attracted 7,452 low-income subscribers, which is 190,827 households short of the agreed-upon goal.”

Frontier has a employer turnover problem in California, evident from this filing by the CETF. (Courtesy: CETF)

The CETF said Frontier was “shirking” and should face the maximum fine of $50,000 a day retroactive to July 1, 2016 for failure to comply with its obligations. As of the end of July, 2018 that fine would amount to over $39 million.

To comply with existing obligations to California, Frontier could have to spend in excess of $1 billion in the next two years. But Frontier has told investors it planned to spend no more than $1.15 billion on capex in fiscal year 2018 across its entire national service area. This could explain why Frontier may be stalling on upgrades in California.

Also raining on Frontier’s parade is the muted reaction to Frontier’s latest money-raising scheme. Shareholders appear lukewarm, with some openly skeptical that Frontier can deliver what it promises.

The plan’s success depends on:

  • Frontier’s ability to raise rates and find other “revenue enhancements” of $150-200 million. Rate increases drive customers to competitors, reducing revenue.
  • Vague “operational improvements” are expected to bring $150-200 million.
  • Customer care and support savings are anticipated to generate $125-175 million in EBITDA benefit.

Outgoing CFO McBride relies heavily on opaque corporate-speak like this, with few specifics:

“In addition to the dedicated resources, we are utilizing a new approach that will significantly accelerate the benefits of both revenue and expense initiatives. This new approach involves utilization of external expertise to significantly reduce the time to successfully realize our objectives. This will allow us to execute more initiatives in parallel while still managing day to day requirements of the business.”

In short, this suggests Frontier will outsource a lot of initiatives they used to manage in-house. The company also plans to start limiting truck rolls to customer homes if the company determines the problem is likely elsewhere in their network. It also claims it is cutting customer hold times at their call centers, which are still frequently outsourced.

What Frontier has made clear, again, is their determination to keep a cap on spending, which means much of the money Frontier will spend each year will go towards network maintenance, not service upgrades. Therefore, customers can expect incremental upgrades, usually when a construction project requires Frontier to replace existing copper wire infrastructure with fiber optics or at a building site for a new housing development. Most customers in existing neighborhoods served by legacy copper wiring on the poles since the 1960s will continue to be serviced by those lines until they are torn down in a storm or stolen. Frontier has consistently shown no interest in wholesale network upgrades in its legacy service areas.

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • Tommy Todd: This sounds good. But getting help to get the process started is next to impossible. The mobile website is a dead end, can't even check the service ma...
  • BestLolita: I have noticed you don't monetize your blog, don't waste your traffic, you can earn additional cash every month. You can use the best adsense alterna...
  • EJ: Josh you are correct as of right now. Without unlimited and/or very high (1TB) caps 4g/5g is nothing more then competition for satellite internet. We ...
  • Dylan: Got that right!...
  • Gayle Conversion: My name is Gayle Anne Wehner-Foglesong.To McAdams! Watch your mouth! You do not blame anyone but yourself. I know everything and I want my money now! ...
  • Michael sherwood: Spectrum charged me an overdue amount and I haven't even been with them for a month...
  • Josh: He’s not wrong, for once. The cell phone stuff keeps blathering s out speeds and how great it is, then can’t actuslly provide unlimited service or an...
  • Dylan: Yeah, Spectrum definitely needs this. I know here in New York, we have National Grid as our electric and gas provider and they definitely tell you abo...
  • FRED HALL: I wish Spectrum had this (and it was accurate). Whenever there's an outage, their tech support is either too stupid or too lazy to let the customer r...
  • Bob61571: TDS Telecom is a sub of Telephone & Data Systems(TDS). US Cellular is also a sub of TDS. TDS Telecom owns a number of smaller small town/rural t...
  • D H: If you want to really feature someone serious for the Governorship. I would suggest Larry Sharpe instead who is actually doing a grassroots campaign....
  • David: Well, I dropped them for earthlink DSL which is slower and buggier but I don't regret it since I don't accept getting pushed around. If earthlink keep...

Your Account: