The Minnesota Department of Commerce had scathing things to say about cable company Frontier back in January.
An investigative report painted a nightmarish picture of what it had been like to have to rely on this lonely internet provider out in greater Minnesota. There are over a thousand comments and complaints. Some customers allegedly spent their entire afternoons on hold, waited for repair people who never showed, or weathered outages that last for days.
Some photographed telephone pedestals knocked over and half-submerged in frozen puddles, spewing tangled wires. Some had cables trailing in unnerving, ropy trails across their front lawns, knotted around tree trunks, or draped over propane tanks. Refunds were reportedly scarce to nonexistent.
The department found the company had violated “over 35 laws and rules.” Frontier roundly denied it.
But in August, a settlement was proposed. The company would have to offer refunds for problems dating back to 2015, and up its game on service and billing practices. It would not, however, have to admit it did anything wrong.
The settlement also doesn’t cover any of the complaints related to Frontier’s internet service, the Star Tribune reports. That’s not under the Public Utility’s Commission’s umbrella.
The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office released a comment later that month saying it neither supported nor opposed the deal. That’s mainly because it’s conducting its own investigation, which may cover customers’ internet issues, too. But it also didn’t present it as tempting.
“The proposed settlement,” the office’s statement said, “…Does not guarantee that Frontier will provide its customers with any relief or otherwise require Frontier to include a specific dollar amount in an escrow account to incentivize paying out customer remedies.”
In short, the settlement was “not commensurate with the gravity of the allegations” and the Attorney General’s Office doubted whether the company was properly motivated to make it up to its customers.
Frontier formally disagreed with the office’s comments in September and urged the Public Utility Commission to take the deal. Last week, it did. The Tribune reported commissioners voted for it 5-0. In a statement, Frontier Vice President Javier Mendoza said the company was "pleased" to have reached a resolution.
"Although Frontier disputed allegations by the Department that the Company violated Minnesota laws, we feel it is in the Company’s and our customers’ best interest to adopt specific proposed service quality improvement measures and standards to enable us to better serve our Minnesota customers," he said.
That’s likely to the dismay of a lot of Frontier customers out there. As much as they hate the company (you can find Facebook pages titled “Frontier Communications Corporation Sucks” and “I hate Frontier Communications”), a lot of people in rural Minnesota are kind of stuck with it.
Many customers said in previous interviews with City Pages they would have dropped the company long ago if they had any other options where they lived. The market, they say, has failed them, and they’re left with whatever hookups they can get, no matter how much they suck.
Their future depends on whether Frontier can really step it up, or whether the Attorney General’s Office can hold its feet to the fire. In the meantime, they’ll just have to stay on hold.