Updated 3:38 p.m. | Posted 12:36 p.m.
Frontier Communications has "failed to provide adequate or reliable service" in Minnesota, the state Commerce Department said Friday as it called for the phone and internet giant to fix its problems and refund some customer money.
Frontier serves more than 90,000 mainly rural customers in Minnesota. Many have complained about the service, saying Frontier has become increasingly undependable.
• Oct. 24: Employees blame Frontier problems on cutbacks, poor communication
• Oct. 1: Southern Minn. towns fed up with telecom service
• Aug. 16: Hundreds of complaints about Frontier prompt public hearings
Complaints led to public hearings last fall across Frontier's service area, which includes parts of northeastern Minnesota, southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area.
The resulting investigative report, based on more than 1,000 consumer complaints and statements, as well as Frontier's responses, found "broad, systemic problems with Frontier's service quality, recordkeeping and business operations" and instances of "direct violations of Minnesota law," the Commerce Department said in a statement .
Among its findings, the agency cited:
• Frequent and lengthy service outages, including loss of customer access to 911 emergency services;
• Delays in repairing and restoring service;
• Failure to provide expedited responses to service outages affecting vulnerable customers with medical needs;
• Failure to maintain and repair equipment, causing service outages and leading to public safety hazards such as lines and damaged equipment on the ground;
• Frequent billing errors, including inaccurate and unauthorized charges;
The agency recommends Frontier be required "to refund or credit customers for service outages and unauthorized charges; add staffing to improve customer service; and increase investments in infrastructure and equipment."
In a statement, Frontier said that while service problems occasionally arise, it "strongly disagrees" with the Commerce Department's findings.
"Frontier and its employees work hard to provide reliable, affordable telecommunications services," the company said. "We are an ethical company committed to our customers and the Minnesota communities we serve."
The Commerce Department investigation was authorized early last year by the state Public Utilities Commission, which regulates companies providing local phone service in Minnesota.