by KATE SHUNNEY
Frontier Communications announced on April 14 they have filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Southern District of New York. Company officials, in a statement from Norwalk, Conn., said the “financial restructuring plan” with its bondholders would allow it to reduce debt “by more than $10 billion and provide significant financial flexibility” that would “support continued investment in its long-term growth.”
The bankruptcy move has been expected for months.
“Frontier expects to continue providing quality service to its customers without interruption and work with its business partners as usual throughout the court-supervised process,” company officials said in their bankruptcy announcement.
Frontier has faced widespread criticism in West Virginia and other states for poor performance of their phone and internet service to customers, and equally poor customer relations.
The West Virginia Public Service Commission is currently overseeing a large number of complaints against the company, and a directed audit of their management procedures. The agency, which regulates utilities in West Virginia, only regulates the telephone portions of Frontier’s business.
A large number of complaints about their internet service have also been filed with the West Virginia Attorney General’s office, accounting for one of their top areas of business complaints.
Frontier Communications Corporation offers phone and internet services to homes and businesses in 29 states. The company will sell its operations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana to Northwest Fiber this month, officials said, at a price of $1.35 billion.
Frontier Communications purchased the local telephone and internet infrastructure from Verizon in 2009 under an agreement to upgrade copper networks to more modern systems.
Morgan County customers, along with Frontier customers in other communities in West Virginia, have reported regular and persistent problems with phone and internet service. Even the county’s 911 center has lost phone line service multiple times due to Frontier outages, causing residents to use alternative methods to reach first responders during an emergency.
Robert Schriesheim, Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Board of Directors, told company stockholders in an April 14 statement that the company doesn’t expect “any interruption in providing services to our customers” during the financial restructuring.
Officials with the Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday they will hold Frontier to their promise to keep services continuing through the bankruptcy process.
“Staying connected to reliable telephone and Internet services is essential in today’s America—perhaps never more so than during this unprecedented time as we confront the coronavirus pandemic. As such, I am pleased that Frontier has made clear that consumers will remain connected despite Frontier’s filing of a bankruptcy reorganization plan,” said Kris Monteith, Chief of the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau.
“We will be vigilant in ensuring both that Frontier’s customers stay connected to vital 911, voice, and broadband services and that Frontier continues to put the federal funds it receives through the Connect America Fund and other universal service programs to work for the American people,” Monteith said in a statement.
Bernie Han, President and Chief Executive Officer, said the company will now focus on “operational efficiencies” and “long-term growth.”
Company officials said filings with the Bankruptcy Court should allow them to operate “without interruption or disruption to its relationships with its customers, vendors and employees.”
Frontier serves roughly 300,000 landline customers in West Virginia and employs close to 1,000 workers in the state and in Ashburn, Va.
Additional information regarding Frontiers’ financial restructuring is available at www.frontierrestructuring.com.