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Frontier Employees Gripe About Deteriorating Conditions, Disappointed Customers

A growing number of Frontier Communications employees are sharing their dissatisfaction working at a phone company that continues its decline with nearly $2 billion in losses and more than a half-million customers departing in 2017.

Workers describe a deteriorating workplace with increasingly hostile and disappointed customers that want to take their business elsewhere, and employees that are increasingly frustrated and predict the company is headed towards bankruptcy.

“This is a company in a long-term decline, which is good and bad for workers and customers,” said ‘Geoff,’ a Frontier employee in California who wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. “It’s good because you know there is still some time left in case of a miraculous turnaround, but bad because like a glider slowly descending toward the ground, it is inevitably going to land or crash at some point in the not-too-distant future.”

Geoff was formerly employed by Verizon Communications before Frontier completed an acquisition of Verizon’s landline, fiber, and wireline networks in California in 2016. Now he’s employed full-time as a network engineer for Frontier.

“The trouble started almost immediately, because Verizon’s methodical, if not bureaucratic way of doing business was replaced with Frontier’s never ending chaos,” Geoff told Stop the Cap! “We were warned by techs in Connecticut, Indiana and West Virginia that Frontier’s management was very uneven, changes direction on various executive whims, and is very disconnected from mainline workers, and boy were they right.”

Geoff and his team, responsible for managing Verizon’s FiOS fiber network in Southern California, were split up after Frontier took over and put under severe budget restraints, which have grown tighter and tighter as Frontier’s economic condition deteriorates.

“Under good leadership, cost cutting can be an effective way to deal with wasteful, creeping spending that sometimes happens at large companies when budgets still reflect the priorities of several years ago, but Frontier just wants costs cut willy-nilly, including investments that actually save the company a lot of money, time, and frustration,” said Geoff. “Those cuts are also responsible for the deteriorating infrastructure and increasing failures customers are experiencing.”

“As a network engineer, I can see each day what Frontier’s network looks like and I talk to many other engineers at this company who are seeing much the same thing in their areas,” Geoff said. “If you live in an area where Verizon upgraded its network to fiber before selling it to Frontier, you will probably experience the least number of service problems, although the company’s billing systems are still troublesome. If you live in what Frontier calls its legacy (copper) markets, it’s a real mess and things are not getting better near fast enough, and customers are going elsewhere.”

Geoff’s views are shared by a growing number of hostile employee reviews being left on websites like Glassdoor. When cumulatively examined, those reviews show common points of complaint:

  • Customers are treated to aggressive sales tactics, offered products and services they cannot use, while rushed off the phone when reporting service problems.
  • Management is out of touch with employees and issue directives for new policies and services that cannot be easily managed from antiquated software and systems still in use at the company.
  • Because company is performing poorly, managers can be very protective of their employee teams and attempt to keep them independent and insulated from management chaos. New employees perceive this as ‘cliquish’ and they often do not do well when assigned to one of those teams, as they are viewed with suspicion.
  • Major cuts in training budgets have left employees with inadequate knowledge of Frontier’s own systems. In sales, this results in customers being sold plans they cannot actually get in their areas, incomplete orders, misrepresentation of pricing and product information, and customer trouble tickets being accidentally erased or left incomplete. Constant process changes are expected to be implemented by employees not trained to implement or manage them.
  • No significant upgrades are coming, but employees are trained to tell customers to be patient for better service that is unlikely to be forthcoming.

Many employees share the view, “we’re all in the same boat, except that boat is sinking.”

The Better Business Bureau offers this advisory about Frontier Communications, which received a grade of “F” from the consumer organization.

“Sally,” who works at a Frontier internet support call center, tells Stop the Cap! she has noticed customers are getting increasingly hostile towards the company.

“The frustration level is enormous for customers and those of us tasked to help them,” Sally said. “Frontier markets itself as a solutions company and we sell a lot of ‘Peace of Mind’ support services for technology products, including our own, but sometimes the only answer to a problem has to come from the company investing in its facilities and not making excuses for why things are not working.”

Sally explains many Frontier customers do not have much experience troubleshooting technology problems.

“Most of my calls come from our rural customers who don’t have a choice in internet providers or are from lower and fixed income customers that cannot afford the cable company’s prices for internet access,” Sally said. “They know what they want to do with their internet connections but call us when they can’t seem to do it, whether that is sending email or watching video or using an internet video calling application to see their grandkids. You can only imagine what they feel when we tell them their DSL connection is unstable or their speed is too slow to support the application they want to use. We end up disappointing a lot of people because the internet and technology is moving much faster than Frontier is and our network just cannot keep up.”

Sally has been on the receiving end of profanity and a lot of slammed down phones, but there is little she can do.

“We can send a repair crew out but considering some of our lines are decades old, there isn’t much they can do about it,” Sally said. “This is a problem only management can solve and they’ve been distracted trying to deal with shareholders, acquisitions, and if you don’t mind me saying, being very preoccupied with their performance bonuses. We always know when another bad quarter is coming because of last-minute directives from top management designed to really push sales and hold on to customers to limit the damage. That is also around the time they start taking perks away from us in various cost-cutting plans. My co-workers are starting to leave because they don’t feel valued and do not want to work for a company in a long-term decline.”

“It seems like Frontier has just given up trying to compete with cable companies for internet services and now just sells internet to rural customers it can reach with the help of government subsidies,” adds Geoff. “It’s easy to do business with customers who don’t have any other choice for internet access.”

42% of Frontier’s Customers in Nevada are “Very Dissatisfied” With Their DSL Service

Bad results for Frontier DSL in Nevada. (Source: Elko Residential Broadband Survey)

Bad results for Frontier DSL in Nevada. (Source: Elko Residential Broadband Survey)

Only six Frontier Communications customers surveyed in Elko, Nev. gave the phone company an “A” for its DSL service, while 42% flunked Frontier for what they considered unacceptable internet service.

The Elko Broadband Action Team has surveyed residential and business customers about broadband performance and found widespread dissatisfaction with Frontier Communications over slow connections and service interruptions.

“I’m pretty disappointed in them,” said Elko councilman John Patrick Rice.

Businesses and residential customers were in close agreement with each other rating Frontier’s service, with nearly 87% complaining they endure buffering delays or slowdowns, especially when watching streaming video. When browsing web pages, nearly three-quarters of surveyed customers still found service lacking.

Among the complaints (Res)-Residential (Bus)-Business:

  • Service interruptions: 74.43% (Res)/79.69% (Bus)
  • Too slow/not receiving advertised speed: 72.16% (Res)/65.75% (Bus)
  • Price: 63.64% (Res)/37.5% (Bus)
  • Customer Service: 38.07% (Res)/45.31% (Bus)

The Nevada Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection received a steady stream of complaints about Frontier’s DSL service in the state over the past year.

Answering the survey question, “would you be interested in faster download and upload speeds at prices that are somewhat comparable to what you are paying now?” 97.87 percent of residential respondents said yes.

Frontier representatives responded to the survey results at a March 27 Elko City Council meeting.

“Frontier did recognize it could improve upstream and downstream flow and educated the council and the public on some of the issues,” Elko assistant city manager Scott Wilkinson said.

Javier Mendoza, director of public relations for Frontier’s West region, explained much of the area Frontier services in Nevada is very rural, so customers are “located many miles from the core Frontier network facilities used to provide broadband service, which makes it technologically and economically challenging to provide faster internet speeds. However, Frontier is continually evaluating and working to improve its network and has and will continue to undertake various initiatives at a customer and community level to enhance its internet services.”

Mendoza said Frontier was currently testing fixed wireless internet service to serve rural areas, but had few details about the service or when it might be available.

Frontier also noted internet traffic was up 25% in the Elko area, primarily as a result of video streaming, social media, and cloud services.

But Councilmen Reece Keener complained Frontier was underinvesting in its network, meaning the company is not well-equipped to deal with increases in demand, something Mendoza denied.

“Several areas of the network providing internet service to Elko have been and continue to be upgraded, providing enhanced service reliability, and ultimately will enable new and upgraded services,” Mendoza said.

It can’t come soon enough for students of Great Basin College, where those taking online courses using Frontier DSL have problems uploading their assignments, claimed Rice, who taught online classes at the college.

“We can get the classes out to the students, but the challenge is for students to get assignments back to the college,” Rice said in a phone interview with the Elko Daily Free Press.

Frontier also claimed improved service performance so far in 2018, up from the fourth quarter of 2017. The company claimed 98.3% of service orders met performance goals, up from 94.37% and  commitments met scored at 92 percent, up from 89.98 percent. Trouble tickets declined from 1,712 to 1,244 across Nevada, the company also claimed.

Frontier Grilled About Tampa’s 911 Outage; Manatee County Cutting Frontier’s Cord

Phillip Dampier March 22, 2018 Consumer News, Frontier, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

A January 911 outage that crippled the emergency response system across the Tampa area came under scrutiny this week at a Hillsborough County government hearing on the matter.

“As a consumer and as a business owner, I’ve not been satisfied with the transition nor do I trust anyone from the company standing up here at the podium and saying ‘trust me.’ I’d like to see something that is guaranteed,” said Commissioner Victor Crist. “I would like to see something in writing that is guaranteed to my voters, my constituents and this board. Can I be clearer than that?”

Taking much of the heat from the clearly exasperated county commission was David Frezza, Frontier’s vice president of network operations.

“We deeply regret that the event on January 31st impacted the emergency services,” Frezza told the county commissioners.

In January, emergency 911 lines suddenly went out of service in several Florida counties around the Tampa Bay area for several hours. Frontier’s explanation initially blamed contractors and an accidental fiber cut.

But at this week’s hearing, Frezza blamed the outage squarely on CenturyLink, which he said removed both main and backup fiber communications cables for a road widening project underway near Clewiston, a small south-central Florida town on the shores of Lake Okeechobee. CenturyLink is the local phone company serving that area. That alone was apparently enough to interrupt 911 service in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Manatee, and Polk counties.

Frontier’s service area in the Tampa region.

The outage took Frontier several hours to track down, which all the more irritated county commissioners because CenturyLink sent advance notice about the work project, although Frezza denied CenturyLink gave the company enough details to recognize its potential danger to the 911 system.

“I assure you that had CenturyLink alerted us to the intent to work on both the primary and secondary paths simultaneously, we would have taken action to prevent such actions,” Frezza said. “Frontier recognizes that regardless of these circumstances, we are ultimately responsible for the quality and resiliency of the services we provide.”

But Freeza also admitted the company had room to improve line mapping and marking to help other telecom companies identify critical Frontier infrastructure. Before the outage, Frontier tracked maintenance notifications via e-mail. But now Frezza said Frontier will do it over the phone.

After several problems dealing with Frontier, including a widely criticized transition from Verizon’s billing systems to Frontier’s own system, county commissioners seemed reluctant to give Frontier just one more chance to explain.

“You have to give us peace of mind,” Commissioner Stacy White said. “We have to be able to tell the citizens of Hillsborough County with a straight face that we and Frontier have everything in place to reduce the likelihood that our 911 systems aren’t going to be knocked down.”

Frontier spokesman Bob Elek said the company had already implemented an improved backup system with two additional network paths for 911 calls and a third on the way.

“We have created enough redundancy in the network to ensure any future events should have backup to make sure it flows smoothly,” said Elek. The county commission curtly told Frontier to “put it in writing and come back.”

One county is not taking a chance with Frontier again. Manatee County officials report they are permanently cutting the cord on Frontier and moving to an internet-based call routing system that will be managed by Motorola. The county made the move after it gave up trying to get their questions and concerns resolved.

“What happened should never have happened. However, just trying to get answers out of them at this point has been hard to do,” said Jake Saur, the county’s chief of emergency communications. “It is set up in two geographically diverse locations, so if one side is knocked down or taken out, the other side takes it up. We don’t believe there will be outages like Frontier.”

WTVT in Tampa covered the Hillsborough County, Fla. hearing regarding Frontier’s 911 failures in January, 2018. (2:01)

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)

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