The chair of the state Public Service Commission is making a pledge to West Virginians who get their television, internet or phone service from Frontier Communications amid reports the company has been preparing to file for bankruptcy.

“The Commission is on top of this issue,” said Commissioner Charlotte Lane, a former Kanawha County delegate who took over as PSC chair last year.

“We will be prepared, if Frontier files for bankruptcy, to make sure that Frontier’s customers in West Virginia will continue to receive service.”

Frontier has more than 300,000 customers in the Mountain State, according to Lane.

In 2019, she said the PSC received nearly 2,000 complaints from those customers about the company’s service, largely issues with landline phone and internet service. The phone number to reach the PSC to report such issues is 1-800-344-5113.

“We spend a lot of times responding to these complaints,” said Lane.

“It’s amazing what a call from the Public Service Commission to a regulated utility will do. Yes, then Frontier responds and, generally, the complaints are taken care of.”

But, Lane said, Frontier should be providing reliable service and adequately addressing issues on a regular basis without intervention from the PSC.

Last July, the PSC selected Schumaker and Company to perform an ongoing management audit of both Frontier following repeat service complaints from senior citizens, emergency services workers, those at 911 centers and others.

Additional field interviews were being conducted this week, according to information filed with the PSC.

A draft audit report on the current copper network and service quality problems was scheduled to be turned over to the PSC by Feb. 18 with a final report to follow it on March 19, 2020.

That report will determine what happens next, Lane said.

“I think we have a lot of power and we will exercise it,” she said.

Earlier this week, the Kanawha County Commission asked for clarification from Frontier amid the bankruptcy reports.

In response, Frontier released a statement about the company’s current financial situation with includes a lot of debt.

“Frontier’s business and operations are solid and serving our customers remains our top priority. As we have said publicly, Frontier is evaluating its capital structure with an eye to reducing debt so as to be able to better serve our customers,” the statement said.

“Our customers should expect no changes as we remain focused on providing connectivity services without interruption to our residential customers, institutions and businesses. We are proud to continue to offer well-paying jobs and benefits that contribute to the economic health of the communities we serve.”

Frontier purchased Verizon’s landline phone service in 2009.

Including West Virginia, Frontier operates in 29 states.

- Shauna Johnson