exeter – It’s been five months since Frontier Communications completed its purchase of Verizon’s Internet services in California, yet most consumers can’t tell the difference. Speeds are still slowed during peak hours of demand. Connections are often dropped intermittently throughout the day. And the system is still at capacity, meaning newer areas of town are still without Internet access.
When the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the $10.5 billion, three-state deal on Dec. 9, 2015, it also tasked Frontier with bringing the overall network performance, specifically in California, up to standards for out-of-service and major outage recovery time and repairs, as well as make annual reports regarding its compliance by the end of this year.
Under the agreement with the Office of Ratepayer Advocates (ORA), a division of the CPUC, and the advocacy group TURN (The Utility Reform Network), Frontier committed to the following by Dec. 31, 2020:
Augmenting the broadband speed for 250,000 households in California to 25 megabits (Mbps) downstream and at least 2 Mbps upstream
Augmenting broadband speed for 150,000 households to support speeds of 25 Mbps downstream and at least 2 Mbps upstream
Provide broadband to an additional 100,000 households to 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream in areas where there is currently no broadband available in California
Provide 250,000 unserved and underserved households with speeds of 6 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream (unserved means households that do not currently have broadband service and underserved means households that may have some service at speeds less than 3 Mbps download
Frontier also promised to bring its new California customers customer service enhancements it has implemented in other markets, such as expanded customer service hours, shorter scheduling windows for in-home appointments, and call reminders and follow-up calls for service appointments.
Frontier will have access to approximately $32 million annually for six years, offered by the FCC to upgrade approximately 77,400 locations in California.
But as far as Frontier is concerned, it’s too soon to judge their service. Frontier inherited a faulty system from Verizon that was already outdated, underserved and unable to expand.
The first time Frontier will be asked for an update on their progress will be the end of next month, when it is required to present the first of its semi-annual (twice per year) report to TURN and ORA. The first milestone won’t happen until Dec. 31, 2018 when Frontier is required to add 100,000 homes with service at speeds of 25/2-3 Mbps in households where fiber optic service is not currently available as part of an effort to bridge the digital divide in both urban and rural areas.
The end of September also marks the deadline for Frontier to retain an independent consultant to conduct a customer satisfaction survey “for broadband and voice services (including [voice over internet protocol] VoIP), and the effectiveness of efforts to educate customers on the limitations of VoIP during power outages and the necessity for maintaining battery back-up.”
Locals wondering if they may have to pay more for the service, the answer is no, at least not until 2019. Basic residential rates – including Caller ID, Call Waiting, Single Line
Business Service, Directory Assistance, Non-Published Service and Inside Wire
Maintenance – are capped until Jan. 1, 2019.
As of July, Frontier was required to offer a reduced rate of $13.99 to low-income customers for speeds of 6/1 Mbps. This is part of the FCC’s broadband Lifeline program to provide an affordable, basic speed, stand-alone broadband internet service to low income customers to help bridge the digital divide.