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W.Va. PSC 'Disappointed' With Frontier's Plans To Improve Service

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Emily Allen
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
A Frontier phone stands along Capitol Street in Charleston, W.Va.

An audit of Frontier Communications in March found that the state’s main landline phone provider isn’t doing enough preventative maintenance on its infrastructure for landline phones.

After the telecommunications company promised to make improvements in its response to the audit two months ago, the West Virginia Public Service Commission said Friday it was “disappointed by the omission of any meaningful detail” in Frontier’s response to the audit.

Now, the PSC is ordering Frontier to provide by the end of July specific details, such as how much Frontier plans to spend on upgrades, and when improvement projects will begin.

The audit, which was published with redactions in March, was part of a two-year investigation the PSC announced in 2018.  

News got out in April from Ars Technica, a science and technology website, that Frontier had improperly redacted its public version of the audit.

Frontier unsuccessfully tried to redact lines detailing how the company has lost thousands of phone and internet customers in West Virginia in the last 10 years as people switched to other telecommunications providers, according to auditors.

Frontier is still asking the Public Service Commission to keep a redacted version of its audit on the PSC website, even though the unredacted findings have been publicized by Ars Technica and West Virginia Public Broadcasting in April.

Commissioners are still considering a records request from West Virginia Public Broadcasting for the unredacted version. 

The PSC investigation kicked off in August 2018, after union leaders for Frontier field staff complained of faulty landline phone service in areas of the state with little to no cell service. Customers in areas with poor service have said frequent and long-lasting outages hinder the ability of local businesses to thrive, and in one case it prevented a Grant County family from calling 911. 

The PSC selected a third party auditing firm to examine Frontier’s work in West Virginia in July 2019.

For the last decade, Frontier has had a legal obligation to provide quality landline phone service to most of the state as West Virginia's “carrier of last resort,” a status the company took on after acquiring former Verizon territory. 

In April, Frontier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.

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