(02/06/2020)
Landline telephone service provided by Frontier Communications continues to be a sore subject for many West Virginians.

The Public Service Commission has been wrestling with Frontier for 17 months after ordering the company to undergo an audit to see if it is being operated efficiently.

You don't have to go very far to find people who are unhappy with Frontier Communications' telephone service.

Over the past couple of years, the West Virginia Public Service Commission has been inundated with about 4,000 complaints about Frontier service outages, repair delays and billing mistakes.

Problems are so widespread government entities are weighing in. In July 2016, both the Kanawha and Hampshire county commissions sent letters to the PSC about chronic outages.

Frontier's service problems aren't limited to rural West Virginia. One of its Charleston customers shared what he called a nightmare while trying to get his phone service working properly so he could work from his home

. With Frontier's much-chronicled troubles, the Public Service Commission in August 2018 ordered a focused management audit to determine if the company was operating efficiently. The report will look at the status of the copper network, its staffing and funding levels, quality of service and Frontier's relationship with the Communications Workers of America.

"We have to do something about it," Charlotte Lane, chair of the West Virginia Public Service Commission, said. "Lots of people in West Virginia don't have any other alternative except for Frontier. They do not have cell service, so Frontier is their lifeline."

The investigation got off to a rocky start, with the PSC rejecting Frontier's first choice of an auditing firm, saying Frontier had put too much emphasis on cost and too little weight on the bidding firms' resources, experience, audit planning, methodology and standards.

So, the commission picked an auditor for Frontier. Schumaker and Company is digging into Frontier's records looking for answers, despite the company missing several commission-imposed deadlines for documents.

Bogged down by more than $16 billion in debt and dealing with a shrinking client base, Frontier's landline telephone business may be running out of options.

But for 300,000 West Virginia customers, the time for excuses is over. They just want the phones they are paying for to work when they need them.

After comments from the company and the commission, the final report is scheduled to be finished March 19.


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