Frontier Of Failure: Verizon FIOS Fumble Costs An ISP The Game (Opinion)

I haven’t had Internet access for more than a week. I’ve resisted writing about it so as not to abuse the bully pulpit I enjoy as the Editor-in-Chief of Tom’s Hardware, but really, most of us have experienced outages, billing problems and customer service frustrations with ISPs, so my frustrating week is not unique.

But with Frontier Communications, it has been something different entirely, on a scale I’ve never experienced.

Apparently, I’m not alone. I’ve realized that my issues are also your issues, at least if you’re unlucky enough to be a Frontier customer, particularly one who used to be a Verizon customer, particularly now if you’re in the Los Angeles area. Still, the problems I’ve had are pretty universal, judging by all of the commentary I’ve read on the Internet (while sitting at a Starbucks, of course).

The issues drive deeper than outages and service problems — mine began with performance degradation that I first noticed when our IT department was doing some remote support (Tuesday, 4/12/16, 12:36 pm), and the painfully slow connection was driving them nuts. That’s when I placed my first call to Frontier.

The following morning (Wednesday, 4/13/16, 11:26 am), the connection disappeared altogether, and so began a new chapter in Frontier’s book on how to completely annihilate the notion of customer service and lose customers.

You know things are bad when you’re actually thinking seriously about Time Warner.

Frontier won’t say what’s going on, although in most regions where it has taken over (acquired) Verizon assets, it has been swapping out and upgrading infrastructure, including how services are provisioned. When I’ve asked various company representatives or technicians I get obfuscation. The technician who came to my house on the third day of the outage (Friday, 4/15/16, Noon) said it was some software issue specific to my installation, and it could only be fixed centrally.

The company’s two main issues, I’m led to believe, are specific to customers with FIOS digital voice, and issues with software provisioning (virtual cross connects, in carrier parlance), as the service and its associated records are migrated to Frontier.

But let’s back up a moment. The support shenanigans is where this really got surreal.

  • I’ve been on hold for a combined time of approximately 10 hours (probably more).
  • I have been hung up on at least four times for no apparent reason. I’ve also been hung up on virtually (during an online chat). What’s more, support personnel — every one of them — has asked for a contact number in case something were to happen to the call, and despite providing this information every single time, not once did I get a call back after the call was “dropped."
  • Initially I called billing, because my connection speed was far, far below what I was paying for. I was told to call customer service. After an hour on hold with customer service, I was told to call billing.
  • On almost every call to customer service, I was passed along from support person to support person, each time waiting on hold for at least half an hour, after which I provided the very same information (every single detail on my account profile), only to be passed along again. Ultimately, when I asked for a supervisor, I was denied . . . until I insisted, and then I was placed on hold again for another 30 minutes.
  • When I initially reported my Internet service outage, I was promised a technician by 5:00 pm that evening. Nobody came. Later that night, they said “tomorrow.” This happened for three straight days.
  • About half the time, agents claimed be unable to find my account at all, even though I gave names, account numbers, ticket numbers, phone numbers and the names of all of my dead relatives. Some of them spent 10 or 15 minutes just trying to find the account.
  • When viewing the status of the trouble ticket, the ticket shows (see below) that it was closed out an entire day before it was actually created.

Finally, when I’d had enough on the second day, I called Frontier PR (Wednesday, 4/13/16, 3:08 pm). I received a return call within a half hour. Later that week, I sent a scathing email update to Frontier PR (Friday, 4/15/16, 9:13 am). Things started happening then, but nothing ever got fixed. Technical support came to my house several times that day, and at least he communicated with me. However, he seemed to be running into the same issues I did when talking with Frontier’s central and support offices.

Over the weekend, he left a note saying service should be restored in 48 hours (Saturday, 4/16/16, approximately 9:00 am). Frontier closed the ticket--yet service never returned. When I called the technician Monday morning, he was flabbergasted.

LA Outage Reports

Several local LA media outlets have detailed the problems. The LA Times has reported on it, talked to Frontier, talked to customers, and publicly called into question the numbers Frontier is claiming are having problems in the LA area.

In a follow up story on the Frontier outages, The LA Times reporter pointed out that the money Frontier is using to “upgrade” the equipment is publicly funded. The company has spent billions buying up landline assets in many regions across the country, but Frontier still apparently hasn’t worked out how to make these migrations smooth. It initially claimed 1,700 outages, and now that figure is at 2,500, according to an LA Times reporter that detailed his conversation with Frontier’s western regional president.

What Tom’s Hardware Readers Think Of Frontier

Late last year, we posted a survey asking you to rate your ISP, which you did in droves. We’ve published many of those responses and provided reviews — based on that data — on these very pages. Frontier wasn’t one of the ISPs we asked about, but 40 of you wrote them in anyway.

Compared to the big guns we initially wrote about, Frontier fares poorly. For support, its average score was 2.35 (out of 5), and reliability was 2.65. Overall, Frontier received a 2.24 rating--the lowest, compared with our baseline group. Its individual scores on the various criteria were also the lowest. Granted, there were only 40 write-ins, so it’s a bit dangerous to compare these numbers to companies where hundreds of readers rated the services, but the commentary is pretty telling.

In fairness, of the overall verbatim reader comments on Frontier, 10 out of 40 were positive. Here were some of the less lovingly (and unedited) applied responses.

On Customer Service:

  • “Works fine, but customer support is awful.”
  • “The customer service and speed are terrible."
  • “The worst company in internet today.”
  • “Poor speed and customer service.”
  • “Terribly slow speeds, poor customer service."

On performance:

  • “Not getting the speed I pay for.”
  • “Slow DSL, misconfigured, overloaded.”
  • “Service consistency is horrible as the internet keeps cutting out despite awesome access point setup.”
  • “Still have outages when it rains.”
  • "$160 for unreliable 15mb DSL.”
  • “They're selling 6mb download and only giving 3.3mb download speed as if everyone is living in the country expecting that.”
  • “Slow-ass overpriced Internet.”
  • “They only deliver a fraction of the promised bandwidth." 

And here’s one for mature audiences only: "It sucks monkey balls."

Two days ago (Wednesday, 4/20/16, 2:02 pm) someone in the local Frontier office was dedicated to work with me. At day’s end, she reported that from Frontier’s end, it looked as if the problem was resolved (Wednesday, 4/20/16, 9:58 pm). It is now Friday, 4/22/16 (see the timestamp of this article), and I still cannot access the Internet.

Write in the comments if you’ve also had problems with Frontier. Maybe together we can make our voices heard. This isn’t just about a service problem, it’s also about a customer service problem. Maybe we can even develop our own slogan for Frontier: “Hey, I don’t hear the monkeys complaining."

Fritz Nelson is the Editor-In-Chief of Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.

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  • xt1
    I used to work at a Frontier DSL and FIOS support call center. First, I feel your pain, I really do. Frontier outsources their tech support to 3rd party call centers, these call centers make money per call that comes in. I was told to get a contact number for future reference, but if the call was dropped I could not call the person back (since we only made money on inbound calls). I would have to write notes in a ticket and leave it open for the next agent.

    Leaving tickets open was considered a bad thing for call center agents and technicians in the field. So many agents had the bad practice of closing tickets to make numbers look better. Some ticket get closed in error due to bad ticket generator user interface and poor employee training.
    The turnover where I worked was high. This lead to inexperienced agents and poor customer service.
    Field agents would be rarely available for dispatch and they would only work about 4 or 5 tickets a day. They understandably tried to fix things at the CO and then work their way out ( this could solve numerous customers problems ). Some techs would never show at the customers place and leave notes that were obviously copy and pasted or the tech would not even test at the location but would test elsewhere (and then log that they tested at the ONT or NID.
    I am sorry you had problems.

    Please reply if you want to know more.
  • mnivek
    What's really sad is that this is the level of service for a recognized media person, with access to a highly visible communications platform, and STILL you get that kind of service. How bad is it for the thousands who are not Editor in Chief somewhere?
  • Frontier_frustrated
    So I'm in Texas where we were never told all Verizon FiOS was "migrating" to Frontier.... How did I find out.... a letter and an outage... on the same day. Regardless, the run around was real, the customer service was saying it was all on my side when after hours of troubleshooting, of which I already did since I am a seasoned IT pro, it narrowed down to an outage several towns over.... I was assured the outage was "temporary" and will be contacted back when a resumption of service was expected. Fail on all parts: contact on resumption, updates, or even account access to pay!
    So at this time, I can't even pay?! How did I find out this little nugget, my wife was scheduling a payment, Verizon said you don't belong to us anymore, and Frontier said well you don't have an account to edit to add your spouse...... FFS