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Frontier Refuses Refunds When Its TV Package Gets Slimmed Down By Contract Dispute

Phillip Dampier January 16, 2017 Competition, Consumer News, Editorial & Site News, Frontier 2 Comments

Frontier FiOS TV customers in the Seattle area are still paying the same price for a cable television package missing one of its most popular channels and the phone company won’t lower the bill.

Since the New Year began, a retransmission consent dispute between Frontier Communications and Sinclair Broadcast Group — the nation’s largest station group owner, has meant customers can no longer watch KOMO-TV (ABC) in Seattle on their Frontier FiOS lineup.

Daily Herald columnist Julie Muhlstein pondered if that should inspire more Washington residents to retaliate with some cord cutting of their own, especially after Frontier Communications delivered an unsympathetic response to the questions many cable customers ask when channels suddenly vanish from the lineup – why isn’t the bill going down?:

Not only is FiOS my source of TV at home, The Daily Herald has a Frontier hookup. For now, there will be no watching KOMO News or ABC on our newsroom TV.

I don’t watch “The Bachelor,” but that’s not the point. Shouldn’t all local affiliates of major commercial broadcast networks — particularly the traditional big three, ABC, CBS and NBC — be the minimum of what cable providers offer? I think so.

And if Frontier Communications offers less, shouldn’t monthly bills be reduced? I think so.

That’s not the way the business works, said Javier Mendoza, director of communications for Frontier Communications. Mendoza confirmed Tuesday that Frontier’s agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. has expired. Sinclair owns Seattle-based KOMO TV, the local ABC affiliate.

“FiOS occasionally changes its channel offerings. That’s covered in our customer service agreement,” Mendoza said. “Such programming package changes are part of normal business and no discounts are available.”

In other words, tough luck and no refunds. Watch something else.

Phillip Dampier: TV retransmission consent disputes will eventually cost both sides money and customers.

Frontier may be its own worst enemy deleting major network affiliates from the lineup, because for many subscribers, those are the channels that keep them subscribed to a bloated, overpriced cable television package that includes dozens of channels they will never watch. Once off the lineup, customers begin searching for alternatives, and something as simple as a good over-the-air antenna can restore free television channels that now cost many cable subscribers several dollars a month only because they travel across a wire or through a satellite dish.

Sinclair, for its part, isn’t terribly sympathetic to the consumer either, demanding an ever-increasing amount of compensation from cable and satellite providers to carry their local stations on the lineup.

Barry Faber, Sinclair’s executive vice president for distribution and network relations, says their asking price was perfectly reasonable for other providers (even though many promptly pass those fees on to consumers in the form of a ‘Broadcast TV Surcharge’). Faber implied Sinclair offered a ‘take it or leave it’ price and Frontier left it.

“They just decided they don’t want to pay that amount. That’s their decision,” Faber said. “It’s up to subscribers to decide what they want to do. If I were a subscriber, I’d think about leaving them.”

Unfortunately for Sinclair, if subscribers go back to using an antenna for television, they will effectively no longer be filling Sinclair’s bank account either, because watching over the air television is still free, at least until someone tries to charge viewers for that as well.

Pennsylvania Could Lose $23M in Broadband Improvement Funding Because Verizon Doesn’t Want It

Come for the scenery but don’t stay for the broadband. (Image: Paul Hamilton)

Verizon’s lack of interest in improving broadband service in rural Pennsylvania could cause the state to lose more than $23 million in available broadband improvement funding.

For several years, Verizon has declined tens of millions from the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund (CAF). The program’s ratepayer-funded subsidies are offered to private phone companies to expand rural internet access in high cost service areas where return on investment is slow or uncertain.

In 2016, Verizon was eligible to receive $23.3 million — nearly half of the federal allotment available to Pennsylvania, but Verizon once again turned the money down. Some consumer advocates called Verizon’s decision counter-intuitive in a state like Pennsylvania where a state law requires guaranteed access to broadband to any customer who wants the service.

Instead of accepting the money to improve the company’s poorly rated DSL service, still not widely available in many rural areas, Verizon has consistently shown no interest in improving service or expanding its highly acclaimed FiOS fiber to the home service to more customers in the state.

State officials now fear the millions in available funding will instead be distributed to other states, leaving Verizon customers in Pennsylvania paying ongoing bill surcharges that will be effectively spent on improved broadband in West Virginia, New York, Ohio, and other states.

“Losing all or part of this funding would be unfair to Pennsylvania residents in rural and high-cost areas and contrary to the FCC’s goal of ensuring broadband access for all,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) wrote in a Dec. 22 letter to outgoing FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler.

The state’s Public Utilities Commission claims there isn’t much the state can do if Verizon remains intransigent about accepting Connect America funding and the minimum speed and service obligations that come with the money.

Independent phone companies in the state including Frontier Communications and Windstream could benefit by requesting some or all of Verizon’s share of the money, but only if the companies are willing and able to invest in rural broadband expansion. In most cases, CAF funding requires phone companies to invest matching funds to collect a payout.

Verizon has significantly reduced investment in its landline/wireline networks since suspending FiOS expansion in 2010.

Frontier Dumping Sinclair’s TV Stations, Tennis Channel in Retransmission Fee Dispute

Phillip Dampier December 21, 2016 Consumer News, Frontier 3 Comments

Frontier Communications has told Sinclair Broadcast Group the asking price to renew carriage of the Tennis Channel and several Sinclair over-the-air stations is too rich for their blood, and as a result will drop the channels Jan. 1, 2017.

The most affected network will be Sinclair’s Tennis Channel, which is seen in several hundred thousand homes subscribed to Frontier FiOS, U-verse, or its new IPTV service Vantage TV.

“We are not close,” Barry Faber, Sinclair’s executive vice president and general counsel, told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

Sinclair is the largest owner of local television stations in the country — owning or operating 173 stations in 81 cities. But only a handful are threatened by this contract dispute:

Market Station/Affiliation Channel SD/HD​
Portland, OR KATU: ABC ​2/502
KATU: MeTV 463
KATU: Comet ​466
Seattle, WA​ KOMO: ABC 4/504
KOMO: Comet 464
KOMO: Grit 465
Raleigh Durham, NC WRDC: MyNetworkTV ​28 (HD)
WRDC: Grit ​56 (SD)
Minneapolis, MN (S. Metro)​ WUCW: CW ​23 (HD)
WUCW: GetTV 67 (SD)
WUCW: Grit 68 (SD)
WUCW: Comet 69 (SD)
​Myrtle Beach, SC ​WPDE: ABC 15 (HD)
​WPDE: Local Weather ​50 (SD)
​WPDE: Comet 51 (SD)
WWMB: CW ​21 (HD)
​WWMB: CW Plus ​52 (SD)
WWMB: American Sports Network ​53 (SD)
​Charleston, SC WCIV: ABC 36 (HD)
​WCIV: My NetworkTV ​37 (HD)
WCIV: Me TV ​38 (HD)
All markets The Tennis Channel Varies by market

Frontier called Sinclair’s proposed renewal price “unreasonable” and stopped responding to Sinclair’s follow-up offers, according to Faber.

“And that’s where it stands,” Faber added. “We view it as negotiations are over.”

Bless Their Hearts: Frontier Fiddles While Rome, Ga. is Stuck in the Slow Lane

Phillip Dampier November 23, 2016 Editorial & Site News, Frontier, Video 1 Comment

Next time you are on hold or waiting for the service technician to show up to diagnose your interminably slow DSL, here is what the folks at Frontier might be doing instead of taking your call or delivering anything close to the FCC’s 25Mbps standard to qualify as real broadband.

OMG. I just can’t even describe this. From the folks at Frontier Communications Exposed. (4:37)

Frontier Will Ask Customers for $4.50 ‘Convenience Fee’ to Pay Bills By Phone

Phillip Dampier November 15, 2016 Consumer News, Frontier No Comments

frontier new logoA well-placed source inside Frontier Communications tells Stop the Cap! the phone company is planning to ask customers for a $4.50 “convenience fee” to make a bill payment by phone, starting as early as January 2017.

“We figured this was coming sooner or later, but it appears that Frontier is now doing everything they possibly can to boost revenue to shareholders because they are losing money hand over fist after their recent purchases of [former] Verizon and AT&T [landline customers in certain states] and their massive mishandling of those transitions,” the source tells us.

Our source advises that the convenience fee will only apply if a customer calls in and speaks to a representative to manage the bill payment over the phone. Customers can avoid the fee by making a payment themselves online or set up autopay on their account.

Customers who are past due may be transferred to collections representative to arrange bill payments. Make sure to ask if any fees will apply when doing so.

An increasing number of providers are adding new surcharges for bill payments managed by a live operator to cut call center costs.

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