CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The clock is running for Frontier Communications when it comes to a response to a complaint those with Lincoln County 911 have filed with the state Public Service Commission following a 911 outage lasting 12 hours in July.
Allen Holder, director of the Lincoln County E-911 Communications Center and Lincoln County Office of Emergency Services, said it was far from the first time in Lincoln County for such an outage which stopped all incoming 911 calls.
“It’s not just a problem in our county, but it’s a problem that is symptomatic of a much, much bigger problem with Frontier statewide,” Holder told MetroNews.
“A few years ago, we might have experienced a 911 outage occasionally, but now they’re becoming much more common with difficulty from Frontier giving us answers as to why those problems occurred.”
With his latest complaint filing, Holder said he was looking for specifics on the Frontier system, including detailed diagrams of how circuits have been delivering 911 calls in Lincoln County.
In his view, there should be enough diversity in the system, with four 911 trunks, to isolate any issues instead of allowing the entire incoming system to be affected as it was on July 17, 2019.
The outage also extended into at least Mason County.
“We have been told by Frontier Communications that this was a cable cut or an equipment issue. We have never been given a actual explanation as to what caused the outage,” Holder wrote.
He was also seeking a plan for preventative steps.
The Lincoln County complaint is one of many the PSC has seen about Frontier.
Last week, the PSC chose Schumaker and Company to perform a focused management audit of Frontier West Virginia and Citizens Telecommunications Company of West Virginia. That audit was to start “as soon as possible” and wrap up within six months.
Schumaker was specifically instructed to highlight its findings and recommendations related to emergency services.
But, Holder said, the problems go beyond 911.
“Complaints are numerous in every county across the state. It affects internet, cable. It affects 911 and, ultimately, it’s going to affect the public safety of people,” he said.
“Telephone service is not a luxury. It is a necessity in this world.”
In Ohio County and Marshall County and in nearby counties, in some cases, there have been multiple 911 outages in recent months.
Local officials in those counties have reached out to the Federal Communications Commission and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) for assistance.
Peggy Bobo Alt, Grant County emergency services and 911 director, previously talked with MetroNews about the 911 and other rampant phone issues in her county.
In Holder’s view, “Frontier just doesn’t take seriously providing that service anymore.”
A request for comment for this story from Frontier was not immediately answered.
In July 2010, Frontier finalized its acquisition of Verizon’s landline service in West Virginia despite opposition from organizations that included the Lincoln County Commission.
In 2015, as part of a settlement in a class action lawsuit, the company agreed to spend $150 million improving slow broadband service.
On Wednesday, Frontier’s stock, which has continued to fall in recent years, was valued at $1.37 per share, reflecting a decline of more than 73 percent in the past year.
Frontier was scheduled to release its latest earnings report on Aug. 6.