Technology

Frontier Communications Internet 2021 Overview


Frontier Communications

Frontier Communications is one of the nation’s largest internet providers, available in 25 states, from Connecticut to California. Service isn’t the same everywhere on the map, however. Most locations will only be eligible for Frontier’s DSL-based service, which, given the slow speeds and Frontier’s recent legal troubles, is tough to recommend.

Frontier FiberOptic is a much better service in terms of speeds and value, but it’s also not without fault. However, Frontier doesn’t require a contract with its fiber or DSL service, so you can cancel anytime without penalty.

Like

  • Equipment rental included in the price
  • Unlimited data
  • No contracts
  • Fiber service where available

Don’t Like

  • Unclear price increases
  • Slower than advertised DSL speeds
  • Bottom of the barrel customer satisfaction

That makes Frontier a workable internet provider if you have access to the company’s fiber plans. However, you’ll still want to be mindful of potential price increases, as Frontier advertises those fiber plans with promo rates that are good for 12 months but won’t say how much your bill will go up after that. That, combined with a history of low customer satisfaction scores, makes Frontier tough to endorse. If you have other options for your home’s connection, you should give them your consideration first.

frontier-coverage-map

FCC/Mapbox

Frontier internet plans, prices and availability

Frontier offers FiberOptic service in 19 states, but availability is limited mainly to metro areas. Everywhere else, like the majority of Connecticut or West Virginia, where Frontier is available throughout most of the state, will have access to Frontier Internet. Again, that means DSL.

Frontier FiberOptic plans

Plan Max speeds Promo rate (first year) Equipment fee Data cap
FiberOptic 50Mbps 50Mbps download, 50Mbps upload $50 None None
FiberOptic 500Mbps 500Mbps download, 500Mbps upload $60 None None
FiberOptic Gig Service 940Mbps download, 880Mbps upload $80 None None

Frontier Internet plans

Plan Max speeds Starting monthly price Equipment fee Data cap
Frontier Basic Internet 9Mbps download, 1Mbps upload $38 None None
Frontier Preferred Internet 25Mbps download, 1Mbps upload $45 None None
Frontier Premium Internet 115Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $55 None None

There is little availability overlap, if any, between Frontier FiberOptic and Frontier Internet plans. Even if both service types happen to be available, I can’t imagine why anyone would choose Frontier Internet over Frontier FiberOptic. 

At $50 per month, Frontier’s entry-level fiber plan offers download speeds that are twice as fast as Frontier Internet’s Preferred plan while costing just $5 more, and you’ll enjoy much better upload speeds, too. While Frontier Internet can be a bit cheaper than Frontier FiberOptic, the speeds and connection quality that come with fiber service compared to DSL are hard to pass up.

No transparency with the pricing

When will the price go up, and by how much? From what I’ve gathered, most Frontier internet plans go up around $10 in price after the first 12 months, but a Frontier salesperson indicated that price increases could vary by region. The gigabit plan is a bit more stable, with pricing good for 36 months, and the Basic Internet plan comes with a price-for-life guarantee if you’re interested in paying $40 for speeds up to 9Mbps for the foreseeable future. 

“Generally, our internet prices do not change for the first 12 months,” a Frontier spokesman said. “Thereafter, the timing of price changes, if any, depend on the initial promotion the customer signed up under, the status of competition and other market factors. We strive to keep our offerings competitively priced.” A corporate statement, if there ever was one, and it expectedly doesn’t tell us much. Frontier declined to tell us directly what kind of price increases customers should expect, and the information doesn’t seem to be available anywhere online, either. It’s an unfortunate look, because of all the ISPs CNET has reached out to regarding standard pricing, Frontier is one of the only ones who failed to comment on how much customers would be paying after the 12th month.

More transparency on fees and data caps (there aren’t any)

Much needed bonus points for Frontier here. All internet plans come with unlimited data (to the relief of many rural residents who have endured the strict data limits of satellite internet) and require no contract. 

Additionally, the Frontier router rental fee ($10) is included in the advertised monthly price. The bad news is that the “fee” is unavoidable even if you buy your own router, so you might as well use the Frontier Wi-Fi equipment unless you need to upgrade to a better device for serious gaming or other specialized internet uses. 

All told, Frontier is one of the best in the internet market at cutting hidden fees, so customers know what to expect on their bill. Until there’s a price increase, that is.

Frontier DSL is slow and spotty, even for DSL

With Frontier Internet — the company’s DSL plans — your three options may be limited based on what speeds are available at your home. For example, if your address is only serviceable for speeds up to 6Mbps, you’ll have the Frontier Basic Internet plan starting at $38 a month. Speeds of 10-25Mbps will come with the $45 pricing, while 26-115Mbps is $55 a month.

What determines available speeds? You guessed it, your address. More specifically, it’s how far your home is from a local transmitting station. DSL speeds diminish over long distances, so the farther away you are, the lower your speeds are likely to be. As an unfortunate result, remote rural locations are often stuck with the lowest speeds.

Don’t count on the fastest speeds being available in your area, or even speeds that could be considered broadband, for that matter. Only about 10% of households in Frontier DSL service areas are eligible for speeds above 100Mbps, and less than a third can get speeds at or above 25Mbps, according to the FCC. Upload speeds are a sadder story. Regardless of available download speeds, upload speeds top out at 1 to 3Mbps in all service areas. 

DSL customers have had enough

Slow speeds and reliability issues are typical with DSL service, but they seem more so with Frontier. Along with the sparse availability of speeds over 25Mbps, outages are an apparent issue with Frontier service.

Downdetector.com has thousands of outage reports from all over the country for Frontier within just the last few months. Some users reported their service being out for days at a time with no indication of when they could expect service to return.

Outages are bad, but worse yet, Frontier now faces legal action over complaints about how fast its DSL service actually is. Specifically, the Federal Trade Commission and six states are suing Frontier in response to continued protests that the provider misled customers on the internet speeds they would receive. 

On the flip side, there’s fiber

OK, let’s take a step away from the negative for a moment. Frontier FiberOptic is more consistent than DSL as far as the available speeds and pricing. For the most part, the speeds and pricing listed above are applicable in all markets, though there may be some locations not eligible for gigabit service. Each plan comes with symmetrical or near-symmetrical upload speeds, a perk typically only available with fiber-optic service. Here are my recommendations for each plan:

  • FiberOptic 50Mbps: Best for one to two users, web browsing and light streaming
  • FiberOptic 500Mbps: Best for three to five users, streaming in HD, gaming online and working/learning remotely
  • FiberOptic Gigabit: Best for five or more users and 10 or more devices, streaming in 4K, working/learning on multiple devices.

You’ll notice a significant speed jump from one FiberOptic plan to the next, which can make it much easier to find the right plan for your needs, but I’d like to see more speed from the lowest-priced plan. Competing fiber providers, including AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon Fios, have starting speeds significantly higher than Frontier FiberOptic (up to 300Mbps with AT&T, 200Mbps for CenturyLink and Verizon Fios) for around the same price. AT&T recently raised the speeds of its lowest-priced fiber plan, so I see no reason why Frontier couldn’t do the same.

If you go with Frontier FiberOptic, go ahead and skip the 50Mbps entirely. Upgrading to the 500Mbps or gigabit plan won’t add too much to your bill, and you’ll appreciate the extra speed, especially when connecting wirelessly over Wi-Fi, which is different from the internet connection running into your home. There are ways to mitigate the Wi-Fi speed loss, such as upgrading to a better router, or trying any of these tips to boost your Wi-Fi signal. 

FiberOptic availability is expanding

Until recently, Frontier FiberOptic was reserved for parts of California, Florida, Indiana and Texas. Thanks to recent fiber-optic expansions, the service is now available in select areas of 15 additional states, including Arizona, Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and West Virginia. 

Though availability is still somewhat limited, Frontier has acknowledged the need for more significant fiber expansion and plans to extend service to more areas in the near future. “Frontier is targeting substantial fiber upgrades over the next several years to locations in and near Frontier’s footprint,” a spokesperson said. 

How does Frontier internet compare?

As a DSL provider, Frontier offers faster max download speeds and lower pricing than most other major DSL providers. AT&T, for example, has max DSL speeds of 75Mbps compared to Frontier’s 115Mbps, and a higher starting price of $40 a month (plus an additional $10 a month for equipment). CenturyLink, another top DSL provider, has speed potential similar to Frontier Internet, but again, the starting price is a bit higher at $49 a month. 

While Frontier has faster max download speeds than many DSL providers, it’s important to note that the fastest speeds are only available to around 10% of customers. By comparison, AT&T’s fastest DSL speeds are available to approximately 40% of customers, and CenturyLink has speeds of 100Mbps or higher in more than a quarter of its markets. Max upload speeds with AT&T and CenturyLink are also significantly higher than Frontier. 

As a fiber internet provider, Frontier doesn’t offer anything that particularly stands out. With fiber plans starting at $50 per month, Frontier FiberOptic has a higher starting price than AT&T Fiber ($35 a month) and Verizon Fios ($40 a month), with lower starting speeds. Gigabit plans from Frontier are priced about the same as Verizon Fios, but more expensive than AT&T ($60 a month) and CenturyLink ($65 a month).

In all likelihood, you won’t have the option of other DSL or fiber providers in Frontier service areas. Competing internet providers of the same technology typically avoid offering internet in the same areas. You will, however, find cable internet providers such as Spectrum or Xfinity to be available in many Frontier service areas.

Cable beats DSL, fiber beats cable

Cable internet providers that you’ll find in Frontier service areas include Mediacom, Spectrum, Suddenlink and Xfinity, among others. When compared to cable internet, Frontier Internet is likely to be slower and more expensive, especially when you consider cost per Mbps. Most cable internet providers offer gigabit download speeds, whereas Frontier Internet tops out at 115Mbps. While cable internet plan pricing can reach $100 a month or higher, the speeds you get for the price are likely to be a much better value.

Cable internet versus Frontier FiberOptic is a coin toss and may come down to which cable provider is in your area. For example, Frontier FiberOptic has pricing similar to Xfinity’s cable internet plans on comparable speed tiers — both providers offer gigabit service starting for around $80 a month, for instance — but you’ll get faster upload speeds and unlimited data with Frontier FiberOptic. Spectrum internet, on the other hand, is priced a bit higher than Frontier, but also comes with the conveniences of unlimited data and no contracts. 

Ultimately, if Frontier FiberOptic is available in your area, I’d likely recommend it over cable internet service, especially if you’re considering the higher 500Mbps or gigabit speed tiers. The pricing is likely to be on par with or lower than similar tiers from a cable provider, and the straightforward pricing and unlimited data give FiberOptic an advantage over most providers, in general.

acsi-isp-customer-service-ratings-2021

American Customer Satisfaction Index

Customer satisfaction reports are not pretty

In the most recent report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Frontier Communications finally broke out of the bottom spot, where it resided for two consecutive years. The ACSI gave Frontier a 2021 score of 57/100, edging out Suddenlink’s score of 55. The two providers swapped spots as last year Frontier came in at 55 and Suddenlink was runner up with a 57 (given what we know about Frontier, it makes me wonder what Suddenlink is doing to get such low scores). Frontier was again alone at the bottom in 2019 with another 55. They’re consistent, at least.

Frontier Communications didn’t fare well with customer satisfaction reporter J.D. Power, either, coming in last in three out of four regions. Frontier ranked last in the East, North Central and West regions, and fell well below the region average in the South despite placing above Kinetic by Windstream, CenturyLink, Suddenlink and HughesNet.

So what’s the deal with Frontier’s consistently low customer satisfaction? Of the 9,294 Frontier customer complaints to the Better Business Bureau closed within the past three years, it appears that service disruptions, poor customer service and lack of speed upgrades in rural areas are all commonly and consistently experienced issues. 

When contacted by the BBB in 2019 regarding a “high volume and pattern of serious complaints,” Frontier’s response admitted that the company had “disappointed customers,” but pointed much of the blame at its acquisitions of infrastructure in Connecticut from AT&T and in California, Texas and Florida from Verizon.

“As the BBB points out, many of the 11,000 (as of December 2019) complaints made on this platform resulted from the transition of services in those two transactions,” reads Frontier’s response. “We have worked diligently to address the issues raised and restore credibility. Issues related to those transactions have been resolved.”

While service disruptions and negative customer experiences can certainly happen during a technical transition, it’s worth pointing out that these acquisitions took place in 2016, yet Frontier’s response to the BBB came in December 2019 — and similar complaints from customers are still coming in.

With 789 BBB customer reviews, Frontier currently has an average of 1.04 out of 5 stars. And while internet service providers are notorious for low review scores, Frontier’s review score feels exceptionally low.

Despite a tough run in recent years, Frontier is optimistic that customer satisfaction will improve. “We work hard to meet customer needs and to provide the best quality and most competitive telecommunications products and services to the customers and communities we serve,” a spokesperson said. “Customer service excellence is a top priority for our new leadership.”

Let’s recap

If you can overlook the low customer satisfaction ratings, Frontier internet is probably worth considering for its unlimited data and contract-free service, but only if Frontier FiberOptic is available in your area. Frontier’s fiber internet offers speeds and pricing comparable to many other top providers, and fiber’s fast upload speeds and reliability give it an edge over cable internet service.

Depending on the available speeds, Frontier’s DSL-based service could be the best internet option in many rural areas where satellite is the only other way to connect. Reports of slow and spotty service, however, may make you want to give satellite internet another look. 

Frontier internet FAQ

What’s the best Frontier internet deal?

Frontier FiberOptic 500Mbps offers plenty of speed for streaming, gaming and browsing the web on multiple devices at once and comes with up to 10 times the speed for only $10 a month more than Frontier’s lowest-priced fiber plan. 

Other than competitive pricing, unlimited data and no contracts, there typically aren’t any exclusive Frontier “deals” or special offers. Some plans may come with a $50 Visa Reward Card when you sign up, but Frontier isn’t widely known for offering special deals or extra incentives to new customers.

Does Frontier have free Wi-Fi?

Frontier includes Wi-Fi service and equipment rental in the monthly price, so while Frontier Wi-Fi is not exactly “free,” it won’t add anything to the total plan cost. 

Should I be concerned about Frontier’s recent Chapter 11 filing?

When Frontier Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2020, it was with the intent to restructure debt and allow for further long-term growth. In the announcement, Frontier stated the company “expects to continue providing quality service to its customers without interruption,” so current and new customers should not see any service issues as a result of the restructuring process. A Frontier Communications spokesperson reinforced this statement, telling CNET, “The Company expects to emerge from Chapter 11 reorganization in early 2021, and upon emergence will have significantly reduced debt and can move forward with enhanced financial flexibility that allows for continued investment in an improved customer experience and long-term growth.”

Credit: Theparadise.ng

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