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Smith, Klobuchar call for FCC investigation into Frontier Communications

In light of Minnesota state investigations into telecommunications provider Frontier Communications Corp. and its subsidiaries—which have received millions in federal funding—detailing poor service to consumers, U.S. Sens. Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., recently pressed Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai to launch an investigation into Frontier's business practices.

A Minnesota Department of Commerce investigation alleges Frontier may have broken at least 35 state laws and regulations, prompting the Minnesota attorney general to open an investigation into consumer protection complaints. The report details the experience of Frontier customers who incurred interruptions of service for months at a time, slow and insufficient repairs, and unauthorized charges or inaccurate billing errors.

Frontier received millions in federal funding to build out broadband service to rural Minnesotans.

"Access to broadband is a core economic issue, and Frontier has received more than $100 million in federal funding over the last four years to improve broadband services in rural Minnesota," states a letter from Smith and Klobuchar to Pai. "However, the report claims Frontier may be underinvesting in its service areas for which it received federal subsidies to build out its broadband network.

When rural service issues were reported to the company, the report alleges Frontier would prioritize repairing requests in more densely populated areas with greater profit margins, and provide better service and equipment repair to those households. When pressed in the investigation, repair tickets for rural and remote customers, which presumably would show lengthy repair times or outages in service, would be 'lost' or missing from records. The department found Frontier's recordkeeping to be deficient, and raised the question of whether Frontier was illegally concealing its discriminatory behavior.

"We respectfully request the FCC commence an investigation into the business practices of Frontier Communications, and its subsidiaries," the letter continued, "serving our constituents in Minnesota to determine whether the company is in compliance with (the Connect America Fund) funding requirements as designated by the agency."