UPDATE (4/2) - Frontier has announced that the longtime problem with landline phone customers in the Five Forks-Big Springs area is resolved.

Frontier replaced sub-stations in the area and updated equipment that had frequently caused phone outages for several years, following an official complaint filed against the company by the Calhoun Commission.

UPDATE (2/13)- Many Frontier land-line customers in the Five Forks-Big Springs area were without phone service Thursday morning, north of Pleasant Hill Elementary School, Rt. 16.

The absence of service for extended periods has increased during the recent months.

Frontier representatives, in a formal WV-PSC hearing conducted in Grantsville Tuesday, said the longtime outage problems will be completed by the end of next week, February 14.

Customers gave testimony at a WV Public Service Commission
formal hearing in Grantsville regarding long-time phone problems
in the Five Forks-Big Springs area, following a complaint filed
against Frontier with the PSC by the Calhoun Commission

By Dianne Weaver

During a West Virginia Public Service administrative hearing in Grantsville Tuesday afternoon, Five Forks-Big Springs residents were able to testify about their long-time land-line disconnect problems with Frontier Communications.

The Calhoun Commission, on behalf of about 275 customers, filed a formal complaint against Frontier last May, customers say they had called the company hundreds of times about disconnects, and experiencing days or weeks without service.

Frontier representative Angela McCall, manager of government and external affairs, told the PSCs Administrative Law Judge, Keith George, with a packed room of Frontier customers, that the problem will be fixed by next weekend.

The tone of the two and one-half hour hearing was set when Frontier attorney Joseph Starsick asked commissioner Bob Weaver, "How many times has Frontier lied to you," defending Frontier.

Frontier entered into testimony monthly reports of actions they have taken during the last eight months, admitting they had missed two deadlines for completion.

Frontier admits the equipment is antiquated, with some estimates saying it is 30-50 years old, with replacement parts difficult to find.

About a dozen customers gave sworn testimony.

The crowded hearing room, with Frontier representatives,
WV-PSC officials, Frontier customers and the Calhoun
commissioners, heard the bad news and a statement about a fix

Customer Randy Ball said the lack of service "is now an accepted way of life, we're just left to our own devices," with cell phone service in the area very sketchy.

Ball said, regarding staying in touch with elderly parents, "We're using two way radios" for well-being checks."

Mary Ann Tilton asked, "Is it going to take someone to die to get your attention, describing residents as victims of Frontier, while Theresa Liles said, "I could have better service with tin cans and a string."

"Frontier has turned customers into victims," said Liles.

Bette Ritchie told the examiners that there have been phone problems for many years, with service worsening during the past two.

"Most troubling is my 93-year-old aunt (who has LifeAlert) she checks to see if there is a dial tone every few minutes. We shouldn't be having problems like this, and we're paying for it," Ritchie said.

"We've even been told the problem is in our house," she said.

"Every time it rains, service goes out," said Susan Barnes, Terry Hickman said she was troubled about the well-being of elderly people.

Nancy Weekley, who has been a phone customer for 37 years, said the bad service "is a way of life. I bet city folks don't have a problem like this."

Donna Richards said she went to a doctor's appointment 100 miles away to find out it had been canceled, because she couldn't be reached by the doctor's office.

"My husband can't get calls to go out to work," Richards said.

Big Springs resident Delores Richards said, with tears in her eyes, "I was injured in a bad wreck and live alone. I fall around in the dark and have both ADT and LifeAlert. The only thing I've got that really works is my gun."

Commenting on lying, she said "They've lied and lied."

Patricia Cain, with other customers, praised the local Frontier employees. Cain said "I'm paying for service that I'm not getting. In many ways, the old crank phones were better."

David White gave a report about his inability to do well-being checks on elderly members of his family.

"I've had a kidney transplant and need to make calls. My husband misses work for the highway department because he can't be reached," said Peggy Dye.

Some customers reported they have asked for discounts from their monthly bill and received them.

Frontier Attorney Joesph Starsick (left) and PSC staff attorney Lisa Wansley participate in the formal hearing.

Weaver, who was the spokesperson for the Calhoun Commission, said "I can't believe in 2015 we're here having this conversation, speaking about terrible phone service and differential treatment to rural areas "

Weaver said Frontier's attorney had recently requested the formal complaint be dropped, with their attorney Joseph Starsick denying it during the hearing. Weaver said, "It's in your letter."

Weaver said, "Frontier has a two-tiered system, one for legacy rural counties and one for counties Frontier purchased from Verizon."

"Legacy rural counties like Calhoun have different responses, rules, and even wages for local Frontier workers, our guys get several dollars less on the hour for doing the same work," said Weaver.

Frontier employee Angela McCall appeared to confirm Frontier had a two-tiered system, with the company responding differently to Frontier's legacy counties and the counties purchased from Verizon.

Several of those testifying talked about poor high-speed Internet service, with Calhoun having among the worst access speeds in the nation.

Frontier officials said they are looking at making repairs in other trouble spot areas of the county.

Tension was high in the packed hearing, Frontier
customers wanting service, and hoping the fix is soon

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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