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Frontier Communications CEO Maggie “6Mbps is Plenty” Wilderotter is Out; Dan McCarthy Takes Over in April

Phillip Dampier March 4, 2015 Broadband Speed, Consumer News, Frontier, Rural Broadband 4 Comments
Wilderotter is out.

Wilderotter is out.

Frontier Communications CEO Maggie Wilderotter will be replaced in April by the company’s current chief operating officer in a sudden transition of power one Wall Street analyst called “oddly timed.”

Wilderotter has led Frontier Communications for more than a decade, growing the phone company’s footprint through the acquisition of Verizon and AT&T landlines in more than two dozen states. Her business strategy has been to refocus the company away from traditional telephone service towards Internet services, without aggressive infrastructure upgrade spending on a scale undertaken by companies like AT&T and Verizon. The majority of Frontier customers still receive slowband Internet service that does not meet the FCC’s minimum 25Mbps threshold to qualify as broadband.

Under her leadership, Frontier paid careful attention to its dividend, which reliably paid investors for holding Frontier stock. But the company also piled on debt through its landline acquisitions, and is now shopping the junk bond market to finance as much as $7.9 billion of its recently announced $10.5 billion purchase of landline assets in California, Florida and Texas from Verizon.

Frontier has positioned the management change in a press release as a “planned transition,” but the sudden change in the middle of the company’s largest ever landline acquisition has raised some eyebrows on Wall Street. Elevation analyst Stephen Sweeney said the management change adds a “degree of risk” and should concern shareholders.

But at least one shareholder was pleased to learn Wilderotter was going to be replaced.

“‘Oddly timed or not, I’m hard pressed to imagine a more incompetent, self-aggrandizing CEO than the one now leaving,” said RG Perrin. “May I remind [readers] that, once-upon-a-time, Frontier’s forebear, Citizens Utilities, comprised electric, gas, water, and telephone utilities, and, moreover, had a rating from the Value-Line Investment Survey of A++ for financial strength. Now look at this poor excuse of a joint-stock company. This is what thirty or so years of doltish management can achieve, including the ten put in by the departing CEO, Maggie Wilderotter. Thanks for the memory, and goodbye, at long last.”

frontierWilderotter is expected to leave the CEO role by April, replaced by Daniel McCarthy. She will stay with the company as executive chairman of the Board of Directors.

McCarthy has been with Frontier Communications since 1990 and has served as its chief operating officer since 2012. McCarthy led the team that negotiated the recent Verizon landline purchase and has been an advocate of the company’s growth into 28 states with nearly 15 million possible customers.

But Frontier’s success at holding customers and attracting new ones has not been good. As of the end of 2014, Frontier had 3,214,800 residential customers, 304,700 business customers, 2,373,900 broadband customers and 586,600 video customers. Its most loyal customers do not have other choices for broadband service and many live in rural communities with limited cable competition. Many disconnect service as their legacy 1-3 year contract commitments with the company expire. Many others require “winback” or customer retention promotions to stay.

McCarthy

McCarthy is in.

The company’s broadband products are increasingly unattractive in areas where the company faces significant competition from cable operators that are increasing Internet speeds and offering discounted bundled service packages. Frontier still relies on traditional ADSL to reach most of its customers, with gradual expansion into bonded DSL and VDSL service in more populated areas.

The majority of its fiber to the neighborhood and fiber to the home-serviced customers came through acquisitions of Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse service areas. The company has refused to embark on similar upgrades for its legacy customers and has sought instead to compete on price. As a result, more than 80% of Frontier’s legacy residential base, excluding Connecticut, purchases slowband at the basic speed tier, which is 6Mbps in most areas.

While Frontier has committed more than $10 billion to acquire Verizon customers, it spends only a fraction of that on upgrades to its existing network. In the last quarter, Frontier’s capital expenditures were $159 million and the company spent an extra $33 million trying to “flash cut” AT&T customers in Connecticut to its billing platform. The company accepted $133 million in Connect America Fund payments, paid for by ratepayers, to expand or upgrade broadband to just 164,000 households. The company will allocate nearly four times that amount to cover the total integration costs of the latest $10 billion Verizon transaction, which will not bring improved broadband to anyone.

Frontier also announced last month it would not commit to any significant expansion of U-verse outside of the existing AT&T service area it acquired in Connecticut. It previously stated it has no plans to expand its acquired FiOS service areas. This means long-term Frontier customers should not expect any significant improvements in service in the near term, especially as the company’s attention turns to its latest acquisitions, which will add 3.7 million voice connections, 2.2 million broadband connections, and 1.2 million FiOS video connections.

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Joe V
Joe V
7 years ago

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Frontier is being propped up with help by the U.S. Government with all these acquisitions and network investment upgrades. The company needs all the help they can get.

Allen P.
Allen P.
7 years ago

Terrible Internet speeds and the worst customer service. Unfortunately they are the only provider for my area. I would get rid of them if I could.

Johanna D.
Johanna D.
6 years ago

Moved out of state for my job in March, was waiting for a final verizon bill, and received 3 bills from fronteir all dated the same day with different account numbers and amounts owed. Impossible to get anyone that speaks english or knows what they are doing after you spend 1 hour on hold. BBB here i come

jennifer
jennifer
6 years ago

Horrific customer service. But don’t worry, I was assured I’d have a technician come fix my internet a week from today. :/

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