AT&T and Frontier have let cellphone networks crumble, Calif. regulator finds

AT&T and Frontier have let phone networks fall apart, Calif. regulator finds

AT&T and Frontier have let their copper cellphone networks deteriorate by neglect since 2010, leading to poor service high quality and lots of prolonged outages, a report commissioned by the California state authorities discovered. Customers in low-income areas and areas with out substantial competitors have fared the worst, the report discovered. AT&T specifically was discovered to have uncared for low-income communities and to have imposed extreme worth will increase including as much as 152.6 p.c over a decade.

The report was written in April 2019 however saved non-public as a result of information submitted by the carriers was deemed confidential and proprietary. The report lastly grew to become public after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) dominated in December 2020 {that a} redacted model needed to be launched by mid-January.

A abstract of the CPUC-commissioned report recognized six key findings:

  1. Service Quality has deteriorated: Both carriers exhibited a better relative variety of outages and longer time required to revive service for outages lasting greater than 24 hours.
  2. Demonstrated lack of resiliency: AT&T and Frontier aren’t sustaining networks to resist environmental and weather-related situations. Networks aren’t strong, each Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) have in the reduction of on preventative upkeep expenditures.
  3. Disinvestment in Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS): AT&T and Frontier are placing little or no funding into infrastructure that helps solely Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) service. Both ILECs are counting on worth will increase and buyer inertia to keep up income stream.
  4. Increased funding in broadband improves POTS service high quality: AT&T and Frontier areas with larger broadband funding have a better degree of POTS service high quality and higher efficiency on all [service] metrics.
  5. AT&T is specializing in larger earnings communities: AT&T wire facilities serving areas with the bottom family incomes exhibit larger hassle report charges and longer out-of-service durations than areas in larger earnings communities.
  6. Direct relationship between quantity of competitors and repair high quality outcomes: Areas with restricted or no competitors expertise decrease service high quality outcomes. Both AT&T and Frontier put extra funding and a focus in areas with larger charges of aggressive choices.

Frontier’s California community was owned and operated by Verizon till Frontier purchased it in April 2016.

Long outages

AT&T and Frontier each repeatedly failed to satisfy the state’s minimal customary to “repair 90 percent of all out-of-service trouble reports within 24 hours.”

“The requirement to clear a minimum 90 percent of out-of-service (OOS) reports within 24 hours has never been met by AT&T since 2010. Verizon/Frontier met the OOS standard in only two of the 96 months covered by this study,” the report mentioned.

“AT&T has the financial resources to maintain and upgrade its wireline network in California, but has yet to do so,” the report additionally mentioned. “Frontier has a strong interest in pursuing such upgrades, but lacks the financial capacity to make the necessary investments.” Frontier filed for chapter in April 2020 whereas admitting that its monetary issues have been prompted largely by a “significant under-investment in fiber deployment.”

The drawback has gotten worse over time, the California report mentioned. “With a few specific exceptions, the quality of AT&T and Frontier legacy voice services has steadily declined over the study period, with outages occurring more frequently and service restoration times getting longer,” the report mentioned.

The report additional described AT&T’s failure to spend money on low-income communities on this paragraph:

Whether deliberate or not, AT&T’s funding insurance policies have tended to favor higher-income communities, and have thus had a disproportionate influence upon the state’s lowest earnings areas. For instance, the weighted common 2010 median annual family earnings for… areas that had been upgraded with fiber optic feeder amenities to help broadband providers was $72,024, vs. solely $60,795 for wire facilities with out such upgrades. Using 2010 US Census information, we discover a clear inverse relationship between family earnings and the entire principal service high quality metrics. Wire facilities serving areas with the bottom family incomes are inclined to have the very best hassle report charges, the longest out-of-service durations, the bottom percentages of outages cleared inside 24 hours, and the longest occasions required to clear 90 p.c of service outages. The reverse is the case for the very best earnings communities.

AT&T’s quickly rising costs

AT&T “has raised its rates for legacy flat-rate residential service by 152.6 percent since the service was de-tariffed by the CPUC in 2009,” the report mentioned. The worth will increase help a “harvesting” technique that maintains income “despite a massive drop-off in demand” for landline cellphone service.

AT&T “has ceased active marketing of POTS, has degraded POTS service quality, and instead relies upon successive price increases and customer inertia to maintain its declining POTS revenue stream,” the CPUC report mentioned. Despite years of regular worth will increase, AT&T “made minimal investments in outside plant rehabilitation, and has also allowed service quality for its legacy services to decline.”

AT&T’s flat-rate cellphone worth in California rose from $10.69 per 30 days in 2006 to $27 in 2018, including as much as a 152.6 p.c enhance, the report mentioned. The greatest will increase started in 2009. Frontier and its predecessor Verizon raised the flat price by 30.6 p.c (from $16.85 to $22) over the identical timeframe.

AT&T’s “measured rate” service, wherein the value varies by the variety of calls made, rose in worth from $5.70 in 2006 to $24.25 in 2018, a 325.4 p.c enhance. Frontier/Verizon’s measured price costs elevated by 34 p.c in the identical time interval.

Telecom analyst Bruce Kushnick argued in a weblog publish at this time that cellphone costs ought to have “plummeted” through the years however that AT&T makes use of the income from its poorly maintained landline cellphone service to pay for upgrades to its cellular community. Kushnick and his “Irregulators” group have been calling for investigations into these “cross-subsidies.”

“In October 2020, the Irregulators filed with the CA Broadband Council and CA Public Utility Commission (CPUC) claiming that AT&T most likely has been overcharging customers billions of dollars annually, and that it has been taking the construction budgets that should have been dedicated to the cities and homes in California and instead has been diverting them to wireless instead of upgrading the state telecom utility,” Kushnick wrote at this time.

Though Frontier additionally raised costs through the years, it has not “implemented the extreme succession of significant price increases for its legacy residential POTS services” seen with AT&T, the report mentioned. The report additionally mentioned Frontier hasn’t used the “harvesting” technique carried out by AT&T.

“Frontier, as a ‘pure-play’ ILEC, has a strong incentive to maintain and to grow its customer base, not to allow it to dissipate. These are all positives for Frontier’s future if it is somehow able to reverse its financial decline,” the report mentioned.

Status quo

We contacted AT&T and Frontier in regards to the CPUC report at this time and requested what steps the carriers have taken to enhance service high quality. We additionally requested the CPUC what actions it took in response to the report and whether or not AT&T and Frontier service has gotten higher or worse for the reason that report was written in April 2019. We’ll replace this text if we get any responses.

Frontier lately agreed to broaden its fiber-to-the-premises community and enhance its poor service high quality in California as a part of a settlement that may assist the corporate exit chapter. Frontier additionally agreed to momentary worth freezes on voice service by the remainder of 2021.

AT&T in October stopped providing legacy DSL service to new prospects regardless of having did not improve tens of tens of millions of legacy DSL traces throughout the US to fiber. AT&T continues to promote DSL to present prospects.

AT&T’s newest embarrassment occurred this month when a 90-year-old buyer in California paid for a Wall Street Journal print advert to complain about his gradual DSL Internet service. The unhealthy publicity shamed AT&T into upgrading his residence to fiber. But because the CPUC report notes, AT&T has did not adequately preserve its community, leaving many DSL Internet and landline cellphone prospects with outdated and unreliable service that continues to worsen.

Update: Frontier issued a response, saying, “The report covers a time period largely prior to Frontier’s ownership and offers recommendations to regulators, not mandates to providers. While Frontier does not agree with all the conclusions, we continue working cooperatively to address service quality and reported significant improvements in our most recent report to the CPUC. We will maintain a focus on quality and continuing to create benefits for our customers and the California communities we serve.”

AT&T issued a press release, saying, “The report is biased, ignores the continuing transformation of the communications market, and relies on an outdated and flawed performance metric that has little relevance to customers’ actual experience. Keeping customers connected is critical to us—and the reality is we have exceeded the state standard for network reliability since 1990. The CPUC’s report instead selectively relies on a different, flawed metric and makes conclusions without any regard for the reliability standard that we do meet. We’ve invested $8.78 billion in our networks in California over the last three years (2017-2019) to increase reliability, speed, and coverage—an increase over the previous 3-year period—and we’ve invested millions in a rural broadband buildout effort to reach over 140,000 homes and rural businesses in California, which the report completely ignores.”

AT&T’s assertion refers to a “reliability standard that we do meet,” in reference to the “customer trouble reports” customary that permits six hassle experiences per 100 cellphone traces every month. The CPUC-commissioned report mentioned this customary ought to be modified as a result of it “is so easily satisfied that it has never been missed by either [AT&T or Frontier] even as their overall service quality has deteriorated.”


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