A Frontier Communications vehicle in Gales Creek. Photo: Chas Hundley

CONNECTICUT - Frontier Communications is washing its hands of their customers in Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho. 

In a move announced on May 29, 2019, the Norwalk, Connecticut based publicly traded telecom company (NASDAQ: FTR) announced it would offload their entire customer base and all associated operations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana to WaveDivision Capital, LLC in partnership with Searchlight Capital Partners, LLC for a $1.352 billion cash deal. 

The sale has yet to be finalized; pending agreements between the involved companies and regulatory approval, there could be some adjustments to the final price. The deal is expected to be finished by year’s end. 

In the meantime, the company stated in a press release that customers would continue to receive services and products through Frontier until the sale is finalized. 

What happens next for Frontier customers isn’t exactly clear. In a statement published on their website, WaveDivision Capital, led by Washington-based telecom entrepreneur Steve Weed stated that customers — and employees of Frontier Telecom — should not see disruption to services, and that all contracts and rates would be honored after the sale was completed. 

“Our plan is to invest further in our markets, specifically by extending fiber to more homes and businesses, to bring them the high speeds they want. Once the transaction closes, we will have more details to share,” said Weed. 

Frontier Communications did not respond to a request for comment.

In rural Washington County, Frontier Communications is sometimes the only provider capable of providing somewhat stable internet and phone service. 

Other options for a rural resident can include satellite internet, which is often slow, has data caps, and has significant latency issues, with connectivity issues arising in bad weather, and wireless broadband, which uses a line-of-sight technology not always available to homes and businesses depending on trees, mountains, and other obstructions. 

And while Frontier is the best — or only — choice for many, it’s often a begrudging choice. Log into any social media thread on the numerous community groups in Gales Creek, Banks, Timber, or other local rural regions and type ‘Frontier’ into the group search function. 

Few have good things to say. 

A common refrain on the Gales Creek Community Group on Facebook is posts reading some variation of “Anyone else having issues with your Frontier today?” The question is asked in a similar vein as “How’s the weather?” 

Whether the impending sale of Frontier’s Oregon customers will have a positive impact on service for area residents remains to be seen. 

An alphabet soup of federal and local agencies will have their say in finalizing the sale, including the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), various state regulatory agencies, and certain local video franchise authorities.

According to Frontier, the company currently serves more than 350,000 customers as of March 31, 2019.

Next installment: We dive into internet and phone options available to customers in rural Washington County, we examine Frontier’s claims on their speed, and whether or not the telecom giant is violating federal regulations when it calls some of their internet plans “broadband.”