REGIONAL— Frontier Communications has failed to provide adequate, reliable phone and internet service to its Minnesota customers and should be required to refund or credit customers for service …
REGIONAL— Frontier Communications has failed to provide adequate, reliable phone and internet service to its Minnesota customers and should be required to refund or credit customers for service outages and unauthorized charges. The company should also be required to add customer service staff and increase investments in infrastructure and equipment.
Those are the findings and recommendations of the Minnesota Commerce Department, which released the results of its investigation into the company’s service issues on Jan. 4. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission ordered the investigation last year following reporting by the Timberjay, which had revealed widespread problems with the company’s service in northeastern Minnesota.
The Department of Commerce investigation focused on the service quality, customer service and billing practices of Frontier Communications of Minnesota, Inc., and its affiliate, Citizens Telecommunications of Minnesota, LLC.
Together, the affiliated companies provide landline phone service to nearly 100,000 Minnesota households and businesses, as well as internet service, in parts of northeastern Minnesota, southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area.
As part of the investigation, seven public hearings were held last fall in Frontier’s service area, including a meeting in Ely. The report is based on more than 1,000 consumer complaints and statements, as well as Frontier’s responses to information requests by the Commerce Department.
According to the report: “Many of the issues reported by consumers show direct violations of Minnesota law and Commission rules, and indicate broad, systemic problems with Frontier’s service quality, recordkeeping and business operations.”
The investigative report details a wide range of concerns about Frontier:
•Frequent and lengthy service outages, including loss of customer access to 911 emergency services;
•Delays in repairing and restoring service;
•Failure to provide expedited responses to service outages affecting vulnerable customers with medical needs;
•Failure to maintain and repair equipment, causing service outages and leading to public safety hazards such as lines and damaged equipment on the ground;
•Lack of investment in infrastructure to ensure reliable service;
•Frequent billing errors, including inaccurate and unauthorized charges;
•Failure to provide refunds or bill credits for service outages;
•Lack of timely, responsive customer service, including lengthy call wait times, inaccurate information and “lost” repair tickets; and
•Discriminatory practices such as prioritizing new service installations over repairs of existing service and providing slower repair services in rural areas compared to more populated areas.
A Frontier spokesperson took strong exception to the Commerce Department findings, which the company is still reviewing. "Frontier and its employees work hard to provide reliable, affordable telecommunications services to approximately 90,000 customers in Minnesota, many in rural communities where no other provider will invest in providing service," said Javier Mendoza, vice president of corporate communications and external affairs. "Frontier recognizes we experience service issues and delays from time-to-time with some of our customers. We are an ethical company committed to our customers and the Minnesota communities we serve. We take this matter seriously and will respond appropriately before the Public Utilities Commission."
The Timberjay will provide a more detailed story in its Jan. 11 print edition as well as additional coverage at timberjay.com.