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Minnesota officials slam Frontier Communications for failing customers

A commerce department review found the telecoms firm has been violating at least 35 laws and rules.

State officials have blasted Minnesota telecoms provider Frontier Communications for the poor service it has been providing to its customers.

The company, which provides landline phone services to almost 100,000 households, as well as internet in parts of northeastern and southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro, is the subject of a scathing report by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

It follows a review of around 1,000 customer complaints made about the company, which the commerce department said appears to show the company has "been violating at least 35 separate laws and rules" that the Public Utilities Commission has the power to impose punishment.

The PUC authorized the commerce department investigation last year as a result of the multitude of complaints it was receiving.

The report recommends that Frontier refund or credit customers who have suffered service outages or been hit with unauthorized charges, and has also told the firm to add more staff to improve its customer service, and increase investments in infrastructure and equipment.

The department found that, among other issues, Frontier was allegedly responsible for "frequent and lengthy" service outages, which resulted in some customers losing access to 911.

Without phone, internet service for a year

In one case, Shellie Metzler, of Finlayson, Minnesota, said that she didn't have telephone service or 911 access for over a year after ordering a phone-internet bundle from Frontier.

She spent over 20 hours speaking with Frontier trying to get an install date for her phone and internet, which she ordered in July 2016 but ultimately didn't get installed till September 2017. 

Even after installation, she would find her internet service constantly dropping or slowing, and says on the days it is working, she gets 1.2mbps speeds "if lucky," despite her paying for 12mbps.

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Other problems identified in the report include delays in repairing/restoring services; failure to maintain or repair equipment, leading to outages; not providing refunds or bill credits for service outrages; frequent billing errors including inaccurate or unauthorized charges; lengthy customer call wait times; and discriminating against existing customers by prioritizing new service installations over repairs of existing services.

In a statement, Frontier said it "strongly disagrees" with the department's findings.

"Frontier and its employees work hard to provide reliable, affordable telecommunications services," it added. "We are an ethical company committed to our customers and the Minnesota communities we serve."

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