By Adelle Whitefoot
The Minnesota Department of Commerce filed an investigative report on Frontier Communications Friday with the Minnesota Public Utilities Committee.
MDC’s report says it found Frontier has failed to provide adequate, reliable phone and internet service to its Minnesota customers. The report recommends Frontier be required to refund or credit customers for service outages and unauthorized charges, add staffing to improve customer service and increase investments in infrastructure and equipment.
As a result of the investigation, over 1,000 consumer complaints and statements were submitted. Of those complaints, there were about 250 reports concerning only phone service, 400 reports concerning both telephone and internet access, 325 reports concerning only internet access and 150 reports where the service type was not readily apparent.
Concerns regarding Frontier in the report widely ranged from:
- Frequent and lengthy service outages;
- 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;
- Frequent billing errors;
- Failure to provide refunds or bill credits for service outages;
- Lack of timely, responsive customer service; 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
“As with almost all complaints to regulatory agencies, the number of consumers who took time to attend a public hearing, write a public comment, or to report their concerns to a government agency by filling a complaint is likely to be a fraction of the customers with similar experiences,” the report said.
Frontier provides phone and internet service to communities across the state, including large portions of Northeastern Minnesota. The PUC opened an investigation early last year after receiving a large volume of complaints in 2017 related to Frontier’s service quality, customer service and billing practices.
When asked about the report Friday, Frontier responded in a statement saying:
“Frontier strongly disagrees with the assertions in the Department of Commerce’s initial comments and is reviewing the Department’s filing with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. 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. 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.”