June 17, 2024

PUCO approves settlement agreement in Frontier service complaint

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today approved an unopposed settlement agreement between PUCO staff and Frontier North, Inc. regarding the company’s landline service quality. The PUCO opened an investigation of the telephone service provider in August 2019 after receiving numerous customer complaints regarding extended service outages.

Terms of the settlement approved today include:

  • Frontier will spend a minimum of $25 million on capital investments each year for the next three years. The company will provide the PUCO and the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) with quarterly reports of its expenditures. Failure to meet the investment commitments may result in a fine.
  • Frontier will reevaluate its outage restoration process to ensure work to repair landline phone outages is prioritized.
  • Frontier must meet the specific repair and restoration metrics each quarter for the next five years. If the company does not meet metrics for two consecutive quarters, Frontier will commit an additional $150,000 for every year in the remaining term and submit a remediation plan to the PUCO within 30 days outlining how they will achieve repair and restoration metrics moving forward.
  • Frontier will develop and complete, within three years, a plan to improve and reduce outages of 911 service.
  • Frontier will establish a customer education plan within 90 days, subject to the review of PUCO and OCC.
  • Frontier will issue out-of-service bill credits to customers when service is not restored within 72 hours of the reported outage.

The PUCO regulates basic local exchange service (BLES). BLES is a flat-rate landline phone service which provides, among other things, access to a dial tone, 9-1-1 and long-distance service. Other telecommunication services, such as mobile or internet services, are not regulated by the PUCO.

Frontier serves approximately 50,000 customers across Ohio. A map of Frontier’s service territory is available on the PUCO website.

A copy of today’s finding and order can be found on the PUCO website www.PUCO.ohio.gov by clicking on the link to Documents and Rules, then Docketing Information System (DIS) and searching case 19-1582-TP-COC.

Background

  • On Aug. 13, 2019, PUCO staff filed a letter alleging more than 30 violations of the Ohio Revised Code and Ohio Administrative Code by Frontier regarding basic local exchange service. The following day, Aug. 14, 2019, the Commission initiated this proceeding. 
  • On Sept. 9, 2019, Frontier filed a response admitting some and denying other allegations in the complaint. 
  • On April 14, 2020, Frontier filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. 
  • On May 26, 2020, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York authorized Frontier to settle certain claims against the company. 
  • On June 24, 2020, Frontier and PUCO staff filed a joint stipulation. The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel agreed to not oppose the settlement.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative.