The Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA) and Office of Small Business Advocate (OSBA) filed a joint complaint with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission against Frontier Communications.
The move was prompted after the office received about 300 informal complaints that had been submitted to the offices of Reps. Tina Pickett, Clint Owlett and Martin Causer “describing serious and persistent quality of service problems experienced with Frontier Commonwealth’s basic telephone service and broadband availability.”
At the Susquehanna County Township Officials meeting and the Montrose Area Chamber’s legislative luncheon – both held last fall – Pickett highlighted issues with the service. The county commissioners also took up the cause – posting a link to the consumer complaint form on the county website.
“Area residents are paying good money for these services and have a right to expect their phones, internet and televisions to work properly,” Pickett said after seeing an increase in complaints at her district office about Frontier’s services last fall, “The complaints we are hearing are not only occasional, short-term problems but also long-term service interruptions or outages that are simply inexcusable in this day and age.”
These complaints were shared with the OCA. According to Consumer Advocate Patrick Cicero, “the problems brought to our attention through the complaints forwarded by the State Representatives raise serious and fundamental safety concerns for the affected consumers. Without access to a telephone, these Pennsylvanians have been denied the ability to communicate with doctors, their family, and from their homes.”
According to the announcement on Monday, the consumer complaints describe a variety of problems, including:
*outages that last days, even weeks; and recur
*noise on the line that impairs call quality
*difficulty reaching a company customer service representative
*difficulty obtaining a satisfactory response when reporting an outage
*appointments scheduled for a repair visit not based on needs of the consumer
*repair appointments not honored by the company
*appointment dates days or even weeks away, leaving the consumer without reliable telephone service in the interim
*lack of notice to the consumer when a scheduled repair appointment is changed
*reports of company network facilities and wires which are damaged, poorly maintained or of insufficient capacity
*service quality which threatens public safety.
The announcement reads: “Informal complainants include senior citizens and other residents who need reliable access to 911, other first responders, their family, and medical caregivers; residents in rural areas who cannot rely upon a neighbor for prompt access to telephone service, customers who do not have wireless service available in their home. The complaints also include a police department, community organization, and various small businesses. The complaints also raise concerns about broadband internet service availability at statutorily required speeds.
“Small businesses cannot contribute to economic growth if they lack communication capabilities. The failure to provide at least a basic level of service is detrimental to the success of small businesses,” says Small Business Advocate NazAarah Sabree. “As businesses continue to rebuild, quality service is more important than ever. We will work closely with the Consumer Advocate and legislators to ensure that inadequate service is not tolerated.”
The 18-page formal complaint filed with the PA PUC details the issues brought to OCA by Frontier customers.
In addition to telephone service issues, it also details that complaints were received regarding Frontier’s broadband internet service, including denial of service, outages, and connection speeds that drop below the minimum requirements and slow speeds compared to the tier purchased by the consumer.
According to the complaint, “The Company has an obligation to make available to each telephone customer a broadband connection providing a download speed equal or greater than 1.544 Mbps and 128 kps up stream.”
The formal complaint states: “After initial review of the over 300 informal complaints collected by legislators and forwarded to the OCA and the OSBA, the Consumer Advocate and the Small Business Advocate have determined: The informal complaints raise serious concerns regarding telephone service quality and whether broadband internet access service is available. The Company’s management of its network, staffing resources, and response to consumer outage reports suggest a broad failure to meet the Company’s legal obligations. The Company’s failure to promptly clear telephone and/or internet service outages, as reported in recent months, harm both the consumer and their communities.”
The Consumer Advocate is asking the PUC to refer the matter to an Administrative Law Judge for hearings and for public input hearings to be held in Frontier’s service territory. Other requests include remediating existing outages and service quality complaints, improved staffing and resources to better maintain the network, provide credits for service outages.