Government Forces Frontier to Stop Collecting $7 Internet Infrastructure Surcharge

A Frontier Communications service van was parked in front of a building.

Frontier Communications has agreed to stop charging its dastardly $7-a-month “Internet Infrastructure Surcharge” as part of a settlement with Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. Frontier also agreed to spend $42.5 million to expand Connecticut’s fiber rollout, make a payment to the state, and improve customer service.

Unfortunately for most frontier netizens in the US, the upcoming settlement only requires changes in Connecticut. We asked Frontier if it will continue to collect the $7 monthly internet infrastructure surcharge in other states, and will update this article when we receive a response.

Frontier claims that the $7 fee, which is not included in advertised plans, is necessary to cover “maintenance and other costs associated with our network infrastructure and your continued access to high-speed Internet service.” One might assume that the cost of maintaining the network would be covered by the standard price users pay for internet services, but Frontier has used the fee to inflate its actual prices above advertised prices.

The settlement with Connecticut “forces Frontier to stop charging a hidden monthly ‘Internet Infrastructure Surcharge’ of $6.99, which would save those customers who levied the surcharge approximately $84 per year and an estimated $16 million dollars across the state last year,” Tong’s announcement read yesterday.

Frontier’s History of Hidden Fees

Frontier does not have to pay the fees back to customers. The settlement provides that customers who filed complaints beginning in 2019 will receive a minimum of $200,000 in credits or refunds. These refunds could cover a variety of customer issues. Frontier also has to pay $1 million to the state.

Frontier has a history of charging fees that don’t make much, if any, sense. As we wrote in July 2019, Frontier customers using their own routers had to pay a $10 monthly “wireless router” fee, even if the router used was fully compatible with the service and required no additional work on their part Frontier was required. Finally, a new US law banned broadband and TV providers from charging “rental fees” for equipment customers provided themselves.

Despite this law, hidden broadband charges continue to be a major nuisance for US telecom users. Frontier increased the price of its Internet Infrastructure Surcharge from $4 to $7 in early 2021.

The settlement states that once the state superior court approves the agreement, Frontier will not bill any new customers for the Internet Infrastructure Surcharge “or any other similarly described fee or charge.” Within 60 days of the Settlement Effective Date, Frontier must stop charging existing customers.

Extensive investigation

The settlement ends a state investigation into “whether Frontier deceived or misled consumers in the marketing and sale of Internet services,” the state said. The investigation by the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Consumer Protection involved reviewing more than 1,400 consumer complaints.

“Frontier has failed Connecticut consumers,” Tong said. “Their DSL Internet quality was slow and unreliable, and their customer service was unacceptable. They’ve attached hidden fees, billed families for returned devices, and continued to charge customers even after services were canceled. Not anymore.”

State officials alleged that Frontier violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act and other laws, but Frontier did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement. One of the state’s allegations is that Frontier “makes misrepresentations[ed] Type and purpose of the internet infrastructure surcharge.”

The settlement calls for Frontier to spend $42.5 million over the next 3.5 years upgrading DSL to fiber, with at least half of the upgrades occurring in depressed areas. The deal will “bring more reliable internet to up to 40,000 families in need,” according to Tong’s announcement.

The settlement also imposes “a comprehensive list of accountability measures for the next six years, including new pricing and billing disclosures, advertising disclosures addressing the company’s DSL representations, requirements that the company deliver promised speeds or options for providing consumers with speeds that aren’t promised, assurances that the company has transparent and fair cancellation and device return processes in place, and more,” Connecticut said. The state can seek an additional $6 million in penalties if Frontier fails to meet requirements.

Border problems in many states

Frontier offers services in 25 states, up from 29 after selling its Northwest U.S. operations in May 2020 to a company now known as Ziply Fiber. Ziply has been forced to settle a Washington state investigation related to Frontier’s business practices.

Frontier also agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and prosecutors in parts of California in May 2022, with the FTC saying that Frontier “lied to consumers and billed them for high-speed Internet speeds it can’t deliver.”

The company emerged from bankruptcy in May 2021 and vowed to expand fiber service after years of underinvestment. Frontier previously faced investigations and complaints about chronic outages in New York, Minnesota, Ohio and West Virginia.

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