Frontier faces service quality, billing investigation from Minnesota regulators

Frontier Communications (Frontier Communications)
Frontier has come under fire in Minnesota over a growing wave of phone and internet customer complaints. (Image: Frontier)

Frontier is facing new trouble in Minnesota as the state’s Department of Commerce has launched an investigation into a rash of customer service complaints.

An investigation conducted by local Minnesota media outlet The Timberjay revealed a long list of complaints from Frontier’s phone and internet service customers. Like other states, Minnesota requires licensed service providers to meet performance metrics and they can be held accountable if they don’t live up to expectations.

Anne Thom, Consumer Affairs Supervisor at the state’s Public Utilities Commission, said in a Timberjay article that the PUC decided to move forward with an investigation after unearthing “a large volume” of complaints in its database.

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Despite efforts to mitigate customer concerns, the agency said that “many of them remain unresolved.”

On Monday, the Commerce Department announced it was launching an investigation. It has asked Frontier’s customers who have had service quality, customer service, or billing practice issues to submit comments on their experiences to the state by May 25 at 4:30 p.m.

While the investigation is being handled by Minnesota’s Commerce Department, the Attorney General’s office and other state agencies could get involved. These agencies have until May 11 to submit their own initial investigation findings to the Commerce Department.

Ross Corsin, a spokesperson for Minnesota’s Department of Commerce, said that state officials will analyze the complaints and comments that come in from the public and ask Frontier to respond to and provide documentation to support their responses.

This investigation could be a major blow for Frontier, which weathered a challenging integration process following its acquisition of Verizon’s wireline assets in California, Texas and Florida. And while the issues in these markets have largely subsided, Wall Street analysts are concerned that large debt from its acquisitions and a dwindling subscriber base could signal the service provider may be heading towards bankruptcy.

At the same time, rumors recently emerged in a Bloomberg report  that Frontier is going to sell its California, Texas and Florida assets. Analysts say that such a sale could attract a mix of network infrastructure providers and private equity firms that are seeing the value in fiber assets.

Frontier is currently struggling to pay off $18 billion of debt, and recently won a reprieve from its lenders that will allow it to borrow more money and refinance part of its debt. The service provider amended its credit agreements with JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., and CoBank ACB in January.