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New Owner Ziply Fiber Moves Quickly to Overhaul Frontier’s Network in Pacific Northwest

Phillip Dampier May 21, 2020 Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News, Frontier, Public Policy & Gov't, Ziply Fiber 24 Comments

Even with the threat of COVID-19 and a virtual nationwide work-from-home initiative, the new owners of Frontier Communications’ network in Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho are moving rapidly to repair persistent network issues, create a backup network, and lay the foundation to bring fiber to the home service to 85% of its customers over the next three years.

Ziply Fiber of Kirkland, Wash., formerly known as Northwest Fiber, acquired the Frontier Communications service areas in the Pacific Northwest just as Frontier itself was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. It will waste little time upgrading Frontier’s copper wire network to get fiber service to customers fast.

“After Frontier bought Verizon’s landlines and FiOS networks in Washington and Oregon in 2010, it felt like the last decade was a phone company driving in neutral,” said Dale Prescott, a FiOS customer in Washington State. “You could feel Frontier never wanted to spend any money out here. It was like they were a caretaker of Verizon’s network, and while we got some service improvements here and there, Frontier also took away a lot too.”

Service reliability suffered, especially in areas that remained served by copper over the last decade. Customers reported lengthy outages and waiting times for repairs, and DSL speeds were actually reduced in some areas because deteriorating network infrastructure could no longer support earlier, faster speeds. In a decade of service, Frontier only managed to provide fiber connections to about 33% of its customers, the vast majority of it acquired from Verizon.

“Frontier never invested much in its network, and what it did invest seemed mostly to keep the lines from falling off the poles,” Prescott said. “Businesses got slightly better service when Frontier boosted its fiber capacity, primarily to serve commercial customers. But if you lived in the sticks, your service got worse over time, not better.”

Ziply Fiber plans to change that experience with a promise to regulators to spend about $500 million overhauling Frontier’s network in the region. Most of that spending will be devoted to upgrading customers to fiber optics. Just a few weeks after closing on its acquisition of Frontier landlines, Ziply told residents in 13 communities to expect fiber upgrades that began this spring. The majority long suffered with Frontier DSL, often at speeds as low as 3 Mbps.

Among the first towns to get fiber service are Kellogg, Moscow, and Coeur d’Alene — all in Idaho. Work has already commenced and is expected to be finished by fall. Ziply wants to keep construction costs as low as possible, so it intends to do aerial deployment of fiber by wrapping the optical cable around existing copper wire telephone cables already on the pole. This process, known as “overlashing” will simplify installation by not requiring additional space to place fiber cables next to existing telephone wiring or going to the effort of removing the existing copper wiring, which raises costs.

Overlashing has met with some controversy, however. Telephone companies are strongly in favor of allowing the process for optical fiber installation because they rarely need permission or costly permits from utility pole owners, often electric utilities. Opposition comes primarily from some electric companies, which claim overlashing can make existing installations “unsafe” by placing too much weight on existing wiring, which may have been installed decades earlier. Those electric utilities also stand to make money from forcing companies to seek new permits for placing fiber on poles, and that permission does not come free of charge.

Fiber customers will be able to select internet plans up to 1,000 Mbps. Enhanced DSL service in some areas is available at speeds up to 115 Mbps, but most of these service areas will probably be served by fiber to the home service, eventually.

Ziply Fiber Upgrade Projects (May, 2020)

  • Washington—Anacortes, Kennewick, Pullman, Richland and Snohomish
  • Oregon—Coquille, Coos Bay, La Grande, North Bend
  • Idaho—Coeur d’Alene, Kellogg, Moscow
  • Montana—Libby

To further speed fiber upgrades, Ziply acquired Wholesail Networks, already contracted to manage fiber network design for Ziply. Company officials quickly identified multiple weak spots in Frontier’s network, particularly relating to its resiliency when fiber cables were cut or copper wiring was stolen. Ziply is building in network redundancy, with each portion of its network served by at least two sets of fiber cabling and identical equipment in each of more than 130 central switching offices. In many markets, Ziply will maintain at least three redundant fiber connections to make certain if one (or two) networks go down, customers can still be served by a third with no interruption in service.

Ziply is also avoiding the usual nightmares customers experience when switching between one company’s systems to another. Frontier’s customers suffered significantly from a cutover from Verizon’s operations and billing systems, which often left them disconnected or mis-billed. To prevent that from happening again, Ziply literally cloned Frontier’s existing back office systems, so customers won’t experience any “cutover” problems.

Ziply executives have been candid about the network they are acquiring. They told regulators the network was in reasonably good condition in some places, but not all. Ziply promised to fix the network weak spots, resolve customer repair orders at least two-thirds faster than Frontier did, and make comparatively broader investments in network operations. Analysts predict Ziply has a better chance of success than Frontier did, primarily because Frontier’s operations were mired in debt, making new investment in network upkeep and upgrades difficult.

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Andrew
Andrew
2 months ago

Good for them. Frontier thanks for holding everyone back all this time. /s

Lee
Lee
2 months ago

Frontier’s logo should be on urinal screens.

Joe
Joe
2 months ago

Worse service ever ( Snohomish County(. They crashed my mail app which erased all the browser bookmarks, I keep getting facetime calls from myself, and my internet stalls or turns on and off constantly. Although they sent out a nice welcoming letter to all of us with a list of great up-grades, not anywhere did it mention maintaining or increasing security.

The Dude
The Dude
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe

I really can’t see how a service issue can be responsible for crashing your mail app and erasing your bookmarks.

Mouse
Mouse
1 month ago
Reply to  The Dude

My mail app has froze and stopped working.

Ronnie Robinson
Ronnie Robinson
1 month ago

Why can’t i disconnect service effective today? They told me I have to wait til the end of the month for it to disconnect, meaning I have to pay the full month even though I already have Xfinity service activated today.

Carol Cole
Carol Cole
1 month ago

I have experienced problems since Ziply took over. I no longer can use my Dish Anywhere app because it will not connect with my server. I can not even run a speed test because it cannot find my server! Not real happy.

Jack
Jack
1 month ago

Ziply is a bad joke a huge downgrade from Frontier, they actually lowered my internet speed to 2.7 mbps from a previous 4.3 mbps. Empty promises, third world connection speeds, they recite “you are getting all the service you are paying for” if you make a complaint.

Eric
Eric
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack

2.7 and 4.3 are odd numbers.. 4.3 doesn’t seem right in the first place.

Jack
Jack
22 days ago
Reply to  Eric

Eric,
The numbers are what I can actually get using Ookla Speed Test. The service line to my home needs to be replaced, it has been damaged multiple times by Comcast and other utility companies.
My speed routinely falls below 1.0.

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 month ago

I just had new service installed from Ziply fiber. So far so good. My only complaint is that technician showed up without a phone call. When I ordered the service I picked 12:00 to 4:00 PM window for install. However the tech showed up around 9:00 AM without a call ahead. Tech also shared with me that they are offering Gig speed service but their network is not capable of delivering gig speeds yet.

Catwoman
Catwoman
1 month ago

I would disassociate myself from the Frontier name if I were you. They have a lousy reputation in Seattle area.

Eric
Eric
1 month ago

I’ve had Frontier fiber internet since 2015 and haven’t had any problems until Ziply took over. Since Ziply took over, my internet service has been going down several times almost every day. Recently I called Ziply customer support a couple times about it and got hung up on after a few minutes. A couple days ago, I finally got a customer support person at Ziply who ran a test and said it detected a low signal at my house, so they’re sending a tech out tomorrow afternoon to diagnose it.

Jack
Jack
22 days ago
Reply to  Eric

Eric,
So far I have only received promises to replace the undergraound service wire to my home. Did they actually repair your line or did you get the “Ziply promise”.

ALF
ALF
1 month ago

Frontier had the worst customer service ever. DSL speeds remain mired at about 1 (yes, ONE) Mbps, down, much slower than that, up. I live a few miles South of Snohomish, and am hoping that Ziply will string fiber that far in the near future.

just me
just me
5 days ago
Reply to  ALF

You are lucky, that is one if 4 locations in the state that will get fiber. It is a lot more reliable.

L H
L H
27 days ago

Frontier had service issues but was an adequate steward of the FiOS at least, although they squandered a lot of their potential. Already since Ziply took over, we’re experiencing buffering issues we never had with Frontier. This is unrelated to internet speed, it’s got traffic flow is managed by Ziply. I’ve seen similar complaints on NextDoor.It’s particularly frustrating to wait a minute or more for apps to reconnect with the server. I hope this is not a sign of things to come!

Cody
Cody
26 days ago

Frontier has never been great, but since Ziply Fiber took over it’s been a nightmare. Internet cuts out multiple times daily, causing us to reboot our (new) router. Sometimes it’s out for hours at a time. We were also overcharged $100+ and have been trying to get it resolved for 2 months now. They tell me they will call me back in 5-7 days, and we hear nothing back. Everytime I call them it’s like I’m restarting the whole process over again. Now they are supposed to mail me something within 30 days and I can almost guarantee it won’t… Read more »

Jack
Jack
22 days ago
Reply to  Cody

I have had terrible internet since Wave went under. Version, Frontier and now Ziply all have failed to provied me anything but terrible speeds for $96 a month. By terrible I mean 2.7 mbps measured by Oookla Speed Test, for a lot of the time less than 1.mbps. The FCC should set minimum levels of service that a company must meet to be able to bill a customer.

Nathat Sampson
Nathat Sampson
22 days ago

I think it’s god-awful there should not be data caps on any internet whatsoever

Carl
Carl
21 days ago

…oh boy… here we go again…! my internet service started with verizon, then frontier communications took over, and now, here we are again, a ‘new’ company – ziplyfiber – is taking over… yikes…! …if “Ziply Fiber plans to change that experience with a promise to regulators to spend about $500 million overhauling Frontier’s network in the region.” hmmm... well, maybe that might be true for ‘hardware end’, but when it comes to spending money on updating the website ‘infrastructure’ end, hmmm; well, when is ziply gonna remove the frontier communications branding and replace it with their own…? and the product… Read more »

Ken
Ken
13 days ago

I had Frontier for 7 years and never had any trouble. Now since Ziply took over, our internet slows to a crawl (3 minutes to load Amazon) all the time, at random times everyday.
When I called Ziply, they said i need to get a computer with an ethernet cable to do some tests. All my computers are laptops with only wireless.
I’m done with Ziply. They’re lame.

just me
just me
5 days ago
Reply to  Ken

It take about 20 seconds to plug an ethernet cable into your laptop. If you are that lazy you are getting the service you deserve.

Paul Houle
Paul Houle
3 days ago
Reply to  just me

20 seconds if your laptop has an Ethernet cable. The one I am typing on now has one, but my late-model Dell laptop from work doesn’t. You can get a USB-to-Ethernet adapter, but at least half of the time I’ve tried one the drivers didn’t work. Internet performance is related to the product of packet loss and ping time. WiFi introduces packet loss by its physical nature. If your internet connection has a slow ping, it takes longer to recover from packet loss. Thus bad WiFi + bad DSL is a match made in hell. I am all for wired… Read more »

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