CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Frontier Communications has agreed to spend an additional $150 million over three years to improve Internet speeds for about 28,000 rural customers in West Virginia, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Thursday.
The capital investment is part of a $160 million settlement that resolves customers’ complaints about the company’s high-speed Internet service. Customers had complained to the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division that they expected Internet speeds of up to 6 megabytes per second but frequently received speeds of 1.5 megabytes per second or lower, Morrisey said in a news release.
As part of the settlement, Frontier will temporarily reduce eligible customers’ monthly rates to $9.99 until their download speeds increase, which will save them $10 to $20 a month. Customers automatically will receive a credit on their bills beginning Jan. 25.
Frontier, which denied any wrongdoing, estimated the rate cut will cost it about $1.5 million quarterly.
The company also agreed to contribute $500,000 to West Virginia’s Consumer Protection Fund.
“We have always provided our customers with honest information about the service they receive from us. By our voluntary assurance with the attorney general in response to his concerns, we have made a binding legal commitment to continue our strong investment in West Virginia and we have effectively created an additional price tier for certain Frontier Internet Max customers,” Mike Flynn, Frontier’s area president, said Thursday in a news release.
Frontier spokesman Andy Malinoski said the company had planned to address the speed issues and that the settlement will accelerate the improvements.
“This is a significant hunk of infrastructure that will get upgraded thanks to the attorney general’s effort,” Malinoski told The Associated Press.
Morrisey called the settlement a “game changer for the Mountain State.”
“The settlement helps consumers receive the high-speed service they expected, while directing significant monies to help fix connectivity issues that consistently keep our state from achieving economic success,” he said.
The improvements will be in addition to upgrades Frontier plans for its network in West Virginia during the next phase of the federal Connect America Fund. Frontier will receive $38 million in federal funding annually over the next five years for infrastructure improvements, Malinoski said.
Since 2010, the company has invested more than $600 million in upgrading its network in West Virginia, Flynn said.
Morrisey said Frontier cannot pass along the settlement’s costs to customers.