Three years after taking over Verizon's West Virginia landline operations, Frontier Communications Corp. officials say the company has either met or exceeded state-mandated performance goals for improving local service.
When the state Public Service Commission approved Frontier's acquisition of the Verizon network in May 2010, it imposed several conditions as part of the transaction.
Those included requiring the company to invest nearly $280 million to improve service quality and increase broadband deployment by the end of 2013. Regulators also said Frontier must ensure that at least 85 percent of households in the old Verizon network have broadband access by the end of 2014.
Frontier officials now say they have satisfied regulators' requirements well ahead of schedule.
"We have met all of those (conditions)," said Dana Waldo, Frontier's senior vice president and general manager in West Virginia.
Between July 2010 and April 2013, Frontier invested more than $300 million in improvements to its West Virginia network operations. That included both increasing access and
improving the quality of the system.
The investments appear to have caused a drop in service interruptions and customer complaints.
Company data show a 25-percent decline in network problems between July 2010 and April 2013.
Customer complaints to the PSC also dropped by 57 percent, from more than 1,500 a year in mid-2010 to a little more than 600 complaints in the 12-month period from May 2012 to May 2013.
"Spending that money and improving that network reduced the number of problems on the network," Waldo said.
The company also delivered its 85 percent broadband access goal nearly two years ahead of schedule.
According to company data, nearly 86 percent of households in the company's territory had broadband availability by the end of 2012. The number increased to 87 percent by the end of March.
While the company has met its goals, Waldo said officials don't plan to stop investing in the network - particularly in the area of broadband availability.
"We still have expansion plans," he said. "We want to bring access to every place we can in West Virginia where it's economically feasible."
The company is also involved in federally funded initiatives to expand broadband access across the state.
Frontier has completed its portion of the state's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, which was funded by federal money. The company spent $42 million of those funds to install 675 new miles of fiber cable and provide access to 647 communities across the state.
Frontier is also tapping funds from the Federal Communications Commission's Connect America Fund to further expand broadband in rural areas of the state. Those funds have been used to expand service in rural areas around Sissonville and East Bank in Kanawha County, as well as in rural parts of Roane and Jackson counties.
Ryan Bailey, general manager for the company's Charleston area market, said the investments are not only increasing access but speeds as well. He said the company hopes the improvements will help it pull market share away from cable-based competition.
"We're trying to increase our speed as we go to make it even more competitive," Bailey said. "Especially here in Charleston - where there's a lot of competition - our focus is about the service and the quality of."
In addition to landline-based service, the company also rolled out a satellite-based broadband service in November. The program is designed to provide access to rural homes located in places where it is not economically feasible for Frontier or cable companies to expand their line-based networks.