After Going Bankrupt For Underinvesting In Fiber, Frontier Communications Pretends It Has Seen The Light
from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
We’ve long discussed how if you really want to understand how the highly monopolistic U.S. broadband industry really works, you should look at regional phone monopoly Frontier Communications. Especially in states like West Virginia, where the company has spent decades lagging on fundamental fiber upgrades, or DSL and phone repairs under a regime of regulatory capture that never holds them accountable for fiber under-investment, outright ripping off taxpayers, or failing to adhere to even basic quality standards.
After more than a decade of this dysfunction — including a completely bungled acquisition of some unwanted Verizon phone, DSL, and fiber customers — the company went bankrupt in 2020.
There were a lot of reasons for this, including terrible customer service, an unwillingness to repair its aging phone and DSL lines, taking on “growth for growth’s sake” merger acquisitions of dying phone networks it couldn’t really afford, and having just a seeming disdain toward its paying, often captive customers who lack competitive alternatives. Filings to the SEC also acknowledged something the company denied for years: its refusal to meaningfully upgrade its aging network to fiber was a big part of its unraveling.
Two years later the company is on an image-reclamation effort to portray itself as more cutting edge. That included an announcement this week that the company would be offering 2 Gbps fiber for $150 a month “network wide.” Of course, by “network wide” the company actually means locations that already have fiber, not the millions of Frontier customers still stuck on aging DSL lines:
“We’re thrilled to become the first and only major ISP to deliver network-wide 2 Gig internet service, as we unleash the power of our fiber network,” said Nick Jeffery, President and CEO of Frontier. “Today is proof that Frontier is doing what customers want and cable can’t–bringing faster speeds and greater value to consumers as we Build Gigabit America.”
Many news outlets were happy to parrot the company’s “network wide” rhetoric in headlines without really discussing the company’s long history of fiber deployment failures in any meaningful detail. The goal for Frontier is to try and get folks to forget it spent a decade fighting competition and shirking on network upgrades as it tries to slow defections to dominant cable providers like Comcast. Other recent company press releases herald the ISP’s transformation into a “fiber first” company, noting that it deployed fiber to an additional 638,000 locations in 2021. That’s not nothing, but in a country where 20-40 million still lack broadband of any kind, it’s not revolutionary either.
The problem here is several fold. One, many phone companies underinvested in fiber because Wall Street is generally only interested in short term profit gains; prolonged, expensive fiber deployments have always been despised (they still are), and companies are simply responding accordingly. That’s not going to magically change just because Frontier claims to have seen the light. Monopoly service sucks, prices are high, and upgrades are spotty in part because Wall Street wants regional monopolies to exploit limited competition to raise rates, cut customer service, and engage in mindless acquisitions for growth to deliver quarterly returns.
So if you don’t actually tackle the lack of competition in Frontier markets (read: unchecked monopolization), or the regulatory capture (read: state and federal corruption) that protect apathetic telecom giants, there’s no real reason to believe that Frontier has fundamentally changed. And because U.S. broadband maps continue to suck, state and federal regulators still don’t have the tools necessary to determine if a company like Frontier is even telling the truth about fiber deployments in the first place.
This all opens the door to a trend I affectionately call “fiber to the press release,” where a telco makes a bunch of fiber deployment promises nobody independently verifies, and the press happily parrots them. Customers in many markets then call their local telco to sign up for “2 Gbps fiber,” only to find it’s still not available. Rinse, wash, repeat.
Filed Under: broadband, competition, fiber
Comments on “After Going Bankrupt For Underinvesting In Fiber, Frontier Communications Pretends It Has Seen The Light”
I live in WV, and would have never considered Frontier, due to their prior DSL service. However, I have been a 1 gig Fiber customer for about 5 months, and have not had any significant interruptions. Speeds are routinely tested in the 960 up/down range, so I am quite happy. Prices are also very inexpensive for service, compared to what I received from Suddenlink Communications/Altice.
i’m sure that once they have fiber in, it works fine. i don’t believe Frontier has ever been critiqued over that. Everything else about their business, on the other hand…
The light at the end of the tunnel...
… is a freight train coming their way.
So proud, so confident, so mushy, so fake. Kinda makes you wanna throw up, doesn’t it?
But but… Municipal fiber is the devil, only the holy private sector can save you from communists! And the children, think of the children!! Ahem.
It must take a lot of skill to bankrupt a govt pampered private monopoly.
Build Back better money
Angling to capture some of that sweet government money and (perhaps) actually install the fiber they didn’t before. Why pay out of pocket if someone else will take care of it….
Every weekly pack of sales circulars, every single one for years and years now, comes with an oversized glossy advertisement from Verizon for their fiber service. And they send this slick ad to every single household, the vast majority of which does not actually have access to their fiber deployment. I remember in 2009 a surveyor came through my neighborhood, telling me we should see installation in less than 2 years, but it never happened. And I know for a fact they rejected new DSL customers starting 10 plus years ago, because I could not get it when my neighbors had it, it runs on the damn copper phone line. But they keep sending those flyers, like they need brand awareness. (they aren’t the only ones,the largest trash removal service sends a flyer every week or so, even though they already service our condo community and we don’t have any individual choice) im not trying to cut some printing companies source of business, but customers are ultimately paying for that obviously useless advertising.
I feel like there has to be some sort of kickback scheme from Comcast, that they are creating an image of competition so that legislators won’t feel any pressure to regulate them.
It doesn’t work very well to rinse first and then wash.
News flash: The year is no longer 2015
I’m not sure what Karl wants to see – if 500 Mbps symmetrical for $49.99/month ($44.99 in some areas) doesn’t register as an aggressive response by Frontier against its competition, what exactly would? Frontier needed to delouse the organization after Wilderotter, McCarthy, and their sycophant buddies from prep schools and wineries. Wilderotter in particular had a fervent belief, from the 2010 Verizon acquisition to her departure, that some new G.Fast/VDSL/DTM copper technology would miraculously appear and increase Frontier’s book value. The people that Karl is attacking were all thrown out years ago. And for the past several years, the most important job at Frontier has been that of the CFO, renegotiating debt and shedding unnecessary assets so that a massive fiber upgrade program could be funded.
Honesty, probably. Referring to a spotty deployment of fiber with uncertain, if any, plans to expand as “network-wide” is perhaps not an outright lie, but it’s certainly deceptive. But more importantly, the issues he would like to see resolved are laid out here:
“So if you don’t actually tackle the lack of competition in Frontier markets (read: unchecked monopolization), or the regulatory capture (read: state and federal corruption) that protect apathetic telecom giants, there’s no real reason to believe that Frontier has fundamentally changed. And because U.S. broadband maps continue to suck, state and federal regulators still don’t have the tools necessary to determine if a company like Frontier is even telling the truth about fiber deployments in the first place.”
First hand knowledge, FTR in North Central Ohio areas has been competing with FTH by Armstrong, WOW, Massilon Cable, and numerous other companies for years, we dang sure dont have a monopoly in this part of the US…and yes, now that we have a few pennies to spend, they are launching, installing, upgrading to 2gig fiber as fast as they can get supplies from the warehouses…
Re: Re: Re: Competition
That’s excellent. That isn’t how it is everywhere else Frontier serves.
I have been a Frontier customer for years. While there has been some improvement, such as, last year there was a period of time I had to reboot my modem several times a day. Thankfully that has been corrected. My cost for phone and internet is only about $65/month, can’t complain about that. However, we are stuck with poor DSL. On my very best day I get 10.9 mbps. Since I live in rural NE PA, and Frontier is a monopoly with no plans to upgrade. Those who are rural and surrounded by trees (Starlink would be difficult) we are stuck. The customer service people are very pleasant but there is nothing they can do. Just my 2 cents!
Not a bad price if you can get it
Considering I pay $85 for just shy of 1Gbps?
The problem is the federal government does nothing to increase rollout. We’re too busy spending money on other stuff. Be it big R and their limited charity or big D and the green end.
Compared to what both parties spend on nonsense national fibre deployment (dp, not service) is fairly inexpensive.
Fact check question...
I would be interested to find out how many of the 638,000 are actually tied to new subdivisions of urban areas, and which are being upgraded to existing subdivisions. The new subdivisions have begun installing everything to the entrances here, along with all the other tie-ins (that you have to pay for after the fact as part of your house). Here, we have options, because other carriers have installed their equip boxes side by side at the cross connects. Sounds like a big number, but you can run one fiber to a new apartment complex and feed around 200 units, depending on the size (obviously). With the easy everything is now, it seems like the number could be checked, or at least compared.
Confused perspective, be patient
What your saying is 90% true, Verizon was neglecting West Virginia since it de-evolved from Bell Atlantic.
I think your confusing CAF projects (fiber to the hub) technology with Fiber to the home. Fiber to the hub is a messy, hybrid technology that still depends on Outdide Plant copper for the last mile.
What Frontier is pushing today is no joke, its the real deal. Ive engineered it to a little over 500 homes myself. Its what Americans have been wanting for over a decade, and West Virginians like myself have only dreamed about becoming available. Give it a chance, I truly think the song will change from Frontier DSL sucks, to Frontier sucks because I cant get their amazing fiber service to my home yet.
The real issue with Frontier today is manpower. We have big dreams and wonderful intentions, but we still need a workforce proportinal to the vision. That is what articles like these should focus on in the future.
Have faith, Nick (CEO) is still relatively new here. Hes younger than our prior CEO’s and unlike them has a realistic understanding of the importance of bandwidth these days. Unlike Massacre Maggie and Demolition Dan, Nick understands that Internet service does so much more today than just accessing email and facebook.
Yeah that’s the issue – a minimal-to-moderate rollout that’s being described as “network-wide”.
Articles should focus on what’s actually happening, not a CEO’s “dreams”.
Understanding is one thing, and priorities are another. We’ll see how it goes.
Reminiscent of Lord Farquaad. Some think little of him and the performance shows it. Pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain.
I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of being their customer in WV for the past 22 years with no other options and absolutely no upgrades in sight.
I signed up for Frontier Fiber, phone internet cable…signal failed august 31st they scheduled me a tech visit Sept 12…no service literally for 12 days!
So after years of putting up with Frontiers broken lines incredibly slow speeds overpriced internet. I now have starlink which is incredibly fast reliable but expensive. The initial $600 to get the equipment and then $120 a month for service. But it works. It’s fast. And I don’t have to call once a week to have someone try and fix my internet. Not to mention the customer service support with Frontier is a very long repeated process to try and get a repair ticket. So after all these years I am so happy to say goodbye to Frontier internet.
Why did my cable keep turning itself off or moving too slow? And then Monday it was off all day come back Tuesday then been off since Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday . My granddaughter is about to die .
Call then granny call them . Hell they don’t answer . At least tell the truth ! You hate the company and will not be fixed in 14 hrs like you said !