Hundreds of complaints about Frontier Communications services prompt public hearings

Monica King Von Holtum tests her Frontier Communications internet speed.
Monica and Joe King Von Holtum talk about their frustrations with Frontier Communications at their home near Worthington in southwest Minnesota.
Mark Steil | MPR News

Some of Frontier Communications' unhappy customers have been living with poor telephone, internet and customer service for years.

"Our internet here is horrible, our provider is Frontier," said Monica King Von Holtum who lives near Worthington in southwest Minnesota. "It's infuriating."

Problems with Frontier crop up when her husband also gets on his computer, or maybe a neighbor logs in.

"If I'm literally the only person using the internet, it's fine," said King Von Holtum. "As soon as we have one or more people using different devices it just tanks and we can't get anything done."

She's supposed to get 6 megabits per second of data. But that hardly ever happens. Sitting at her computer, she demonstrates with an online internet speed test just how bad things can get.

Monica King Von Holtum tests her Frontier Communications internet speed.
Monica King Von Holtum tests her internet speed at her home near Worthington. She's one of many Frontier Communications customers in Minnesota who've complained about the company's service.
Mark Steil | MPR News

"We have 0.4 megabits per second," said King Von Holtum. "And our upload is pretty much nonexistent."

Frontier Communications declined an interview request, but the company did issue a statement. "We know some customers have been frustrated," Frontier wrote. "We look forward to addressing our customers concerns and resolving their issues".

But that's where a second common complaint against the Frontier surfaces.

"Repeatedly, I have called Frontier and either I get lied to or pretty much laughed at," said Melody Webster, who lives near Cannon Falls just south of the Twin Cities.

If a technician comes, she says, the internet speed may improve for a few days, but soon drops back to its usual slowness. It's so bad her children can't do school work on the internet. Instead, they usually drive 5 miles into Cannon Falls to get on the library's broadband.

In its statement to MPR News, Frontier said it serves some of the state's "most rural, high-cost, and hard-to-serve communities."

But Webster says no matter how difficult the task, Frontier should deliver the internet speeds it promises when customers sign up.

"They've never credited my bill, they've never let me pay the cheaper cost for the slower internet," said Webster. "They've never done anything to have a satisfied customer."

The PUC has heard from lots of unhappy customers. It's received more than 400 comments and complaints about Frontier. One telephone customer said service drops out regularly, sometimes for as long as a week. An internet customer said Frontier's service record shows the company lacks "common decency." Another calls the company's high-speed internet service "worse than dial-up."

Many customers, like Joe and Monica King Von Holtum of Worthington, feel stuck.

"That makes me wish that maybe there was some competition out here," said Joe King Von Holtum.

He said their only other internet options, like a satellite service, are unaffordable.

The state hearings about Frontier's service are scheduled to start Sept. 4 in Ely. The next day they move to McGregor, then a week later to Wyoming; finishing up in Slayton and Lakeville during the last week of the month.