Posted by Mike on April 21st, 2015
Internet and Broadband are near and dear to my heart. To me, this thing we call the “Internet” has to be one of the most impressive and important things that mankind has ever built.
In the mid 90’s when the Internet as we know it (the world wide web) was just starting out, I was involved in running an ISP (Internet Service Provider) that spanned from New York, to Delaware, and east to Atlantic City. This was in the dial-up days, but back then many of us realized the potential of connecting the world to our desktops. I have been a part of this revolution since the early days so I know a thing or two.
Today, many businesses rely on broadband to provide the services and products they produce. Insurance, trucking logistics, financial services, banking, schools, medical and a host of other businesses require dependable, affordable and fast connections.
So it saddens me when I look at the state of broadband in my home of West Virginia. This became particularly clear when a friend sent a link to an article in the Charleston Gazette for Sunday April 19th by Eric Eyre about Frontier actually tearing down the fiber cable of a competitor who won a contract from Nicholas County Schools. Now, according to the article, Frontier has been providing telecommunication services to the county schools for years. Lumos requested to use Frontier’s poles in 2011 and paid $103,000 to have Frontier prepare the poles–but Frontier never did the work.
After 3-4 years passed, Lumos hired a private contractor to install the fiber cable. That’s when Frontier sent out a crew, not to prepare the poles but to tear down the competitor’s fiber and threaten legal action if they tried to re-install it. Frontier stated that the cable was unsafe. According to Lumos, they will be unable to provide services to the schools without that fiber.
Now, I am only getting this information from one source. However, it falls into the same old pattern of conduct by Frontier. CityNet, another competitor that wants to bring affordable broadband to our state had to take Frontier to court alleging they reneged on an agreement to rent some of Frontier’s un-used or “dark” fiber to bring services to the businesses and citizens.
Frontier is under federal investigation over the misappropriation of millions of stimulus dollars that were intended to build a “middle mile” fiber network in West Virginia. I was present at a meeting where we were shown how this money was spent. Instead of long stretches of fiber connecting cities and towns, the map looked like a bunch of tiny short pieces of fiber that only enhanced Frontier’s network. No competitor in their right mind could use it, only Frontier. And with no competition, Frontier can charge what they want, and their prices are high for what you get–if you get it at all.
This past legislative session I was excited to learn that the Senate was considering a state run middle mile fiber network that would be open to all competition. Frontier poured everything they had into stopping it and were able to kill the bill in committee. Frontier’s position was that they had plenty of fiber already in the state and it would be a waste of taxpayer money. Frontier is so deep into the pockets of our lawmakers they usually get what they want.
Now on a personal note, I live out in the country and the only provider for phone and Internet is Frontier unless you can get cell service. Last summer, a contractor had accidently hit the phone line with a backhoe and due to the long run between poles, the cable dropped in the farm field. It ran across my neighbor’s driveway and tore apart some of the connections. My neighbor had to prop up the cable with a 2×6 tied to his fence post in order to get in and out of his driveway, the cable swings across his yard before hitting the ground. Numerous calls to Frontier resulted in nothing. EIGHT MONTHS LATER it has not been fixed. Now if Frontier cited “public safety” as an excuse to rip down a competitor’s phone lines, then what do you call leaving their cable on the ground for eight months?
I applaud Frontier’s civic involvement and personally know and like many of the people working for them. However, the senior management is playing this state like a fiddle and laughing at our ignorance and head in the sand mentality. I can’t blame them, they are here to make a profit but how often will the citizens of this state have to bend over and take it? You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure out what is going on.