Telecom regulations seem to run through Kathleen Quinn Abernathy's blood. Appointed as Chief Legal Officer and Executive Vice President for Frontier Communications (NYSE: FTR) last March, Abernathy will have to navigate through complex regulatory waters as it continues to integrate Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) rural lines in 14 states. It is well known in many circles that Verizon largely abandoned those lines in order to focus on its larger markets and higher end services such as wireless and its Fiber to the Premises (FTTP)-based platform, FiOS.
However, it's clear that Abernathy has the experience to tackle challenging regulatory issues in Washington, D.C., and on a state level at a large service provider like Frontier Communications.
Before joining Frontier, Abernathy served as a partner at two prominent law firms--Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP--advising clients on telecom and media issues.
But what Abernathy is probably best known for is her tenure as an FCC Commissioner from 2001 to 2005.
During her time at the FCC, Abernathy chaired the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service and participated in numerous international bilateral and multilateral negotiations, including the 2002 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference and the 2003 ITU World Radiocommunications Conference.
All of this experience will continue to come in handy at Frontier.
Given the issues that fellow independent ILECs Hawaiian Telcom and FairPoint (Nasdaq: FRP) had in acquiring and integrating Verizon's former lines--not to mention the investments mandated by the current FCC regime to ensure they can deliver broadband and improve existing phone service--telecom industry watchers were understandably skeptical on Frontier's ability to pull off such a deal.
Abernathy faces continual regulatory challenges, including ensuring that the network integration process meets mandated schedules, continuing broadband expansion, and dealing with the ongoing fallout resulting from Frontier's move to opt out of delivering the FiOS TV service it acquired in the Verizon deal.
One of the positive notes seen in her one-year tenure thus far is that Frontier reported in its second quarter earnings that four states are on track to be completed by the end of this year. The provider has begun the planning process to convert the remaining nine states into its systems in 2012.