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Pact in Pa. Frontier Probe Expected Wednesday

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Aiming to resolve claims about poor service in Pennsylvania, Frontier Communications plans to file a proposed settlement with state consumer and small-business advocates Wednesday, the parties said at a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission hearing here Tuesday. If that schedule holds, comments would be due Dec. 11, with responses from parties due Dec. 26, said PUC Administrative Law Judge John Coogan.

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Parties admitted evidence at a speedy hearing Tuesday before Coogan and ALJ Steven Haas. The Pennsylvania PUC originally scheduled two days for the evidentiary hearing on the formal complaint against Frontier by the Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA) and the Office of Small Business Advocate (see 2301100035). But earlier this month, the PUC canceled the second day due to the possible pact. The advocates had alleged a variety of phone and broadband service quality problems and sought remediation, credits and civil penalties (docket C-2023-3037574). The PUC heard many complaints from Frontier customers at field hearings over the summer.

State legislators are closely watching. Republican Reps. Clint Owlett and Tina Pickett pushed for the Frontier investigation, while joining four other rural members in a package of telecom accountability bills in the state House this year (see 2310030036). Owlett won’t comment on the proposed settlement until he sees the details, he said Tuesday. Likewise, Pickett told us she will reserve her comments until any “potential settlement is in place.”

The proposed pact is due Oct. 31, but at the hearing Frontier counsel Bryce Beard of Eckert Seamens said the parties aimed to file by close-of-business Wednesday. The OCA plans to post it on its website the same day, said Senior Assistant Consumer Advocate Aron Beatty.

Each party should provide “detailed statements of support” with the agreement, said Coogan at the hearing. OCA will collect comments for 45 days after the pact is posted online, the ALJ said. OCA will submit those comments to the PUC within three business days and Frontier and the state advocates will have 15 days to respond, said Coogan. “Comments will be considered only for the purpose of determining whether the proposed settlement is in the public interest.”

One Frontier customer had no internet for six weeks, according to an exhibit posted at the PUC this summer. The company didn’t show up for two service appointments, though the company told her someone had come and fixed the problem, said the consumer, Cynthia Rohrer. Frontier continued to charge for service despite the long outage, she wrote. “What is just as frustrating” as the six-week outage “was the complete lack of competency, honesty, and customer service shown by Frontier.”