Frontier Remains Down for Hundreds of Malibu Customers

Frontier Communications

More than two months after the Woolsey Fire, hundreds of Frontier customers in Malibu are still without service and their impatience is growing, after being cut off from communications most people enjoy: phone, internet and cable. Some Frontier customers still without service weren’t even in the burn zone—and that has them burning with anger. 

According to Frontier, the company is employing four times its normal staff to work in the area—but ongoing issues have not seen any resolution.

One Colony resident contacted by The Malibu Times said his service went downhill after Frontier took over from Verizon nearly three years ago. The change to a fiber-optic system meant that after a power outage there is only a four-hour backup battery system for a landline. When power went off right before evacuation in the Colony, it eventually was restored in a week’s time—but not cable, phone and internet. Service was spotty at first and now virtually nonexistent.

“I run a business. I need those services. I count on them,” the resident, who works out of his Colony home, related. “My frustration with Frontier has run a long time. During the summer we had the same problem, and there was no disaster then.” The Malibu resident has resorted to purchasing a mifi, or mobile wireless system, as a backup, “just in case it goes down, so I can keep my business running.” The mifi costs $80 a month in addition to the monthly fees he pays to Frontier. “I pay almost $280 a month for all these [Frontier] services and they’re inconsistent at best, and I have to actually pay another $80 to have a backup system in case it fails because it fails so much. It’s very frustrating.”

Two weeks ago, when the Frontier system failed again, the Colony resident got ahold of the provider and tried troubleshooting as directed by the company. 

“The bottom line is, they couldn’t resolve any of the issues and said a worker would come out in 11 days,” the frustrated resident described. He sounded skeptical about the appointment happening at all, after he said he received a message from Frontier saying the appointment may be adjusted due to a busy work overload in the area.

Other residents have voiced their frustration with Frontier, accusing the company, in many cases the sole cable provider in the area, as lacking economic incentives to provide competitive service.

The Malibu Times spoke with Frontier Vice President of Corporate Communications and External Affairs Javier Mendoza, who first expressed concern for “those in the Malibu community that have been affected by the fire.” 

“Currently we have four times our normal workforce,” Mendoza said. “We brought in technicians and resources from across California to help complete the restoration of the Woolsey Fire damage as quickly as safety will allow. We’ve worked cooperatively with officials, first responders and the other utilities. I’ve been in touch with your elected officials to escalate and do whatever we can and thank customers for their cooperation and patience as we work to rebuild.”

Frontier received 1,250 customer service requests and claims to have completed more than 900. Still, Mendoza estimated a finish date sometime in early March. “Sometimes, people don’t realize there’s two components to it,” the VP said. “We’re rebuilding the infrastructure that was damaged, but we’re also responding to the daily needs of customers. Some infrastructure was burned along with the other utilities. We have Frontier-owned poles that also hold Edison and cable. The process of restoration is time-consuming because first the electricity utility needs to put up their facilities, then the cable and then the phone services, so we’re third on the list.”

Frontier ordered heavy cables “you don’t just get off the shelf at a hardware store,” Mendoza described. “Some are special order. We’re replacing 150 support poles and nearly eight miles of fiber-optic. Additional material may be identified as we progress. We started work as soon as the fire center command team said it was safe to enter the burn area. We work as safety allows—seven days a week.” Mendoza added that last week’s rain interrupted the work schedule due to the threat of mudslides. 

The company is providing service bill credits and waivers to customers directly affected by the fire. Customers are continuing to get regular bills, but will be credited for time out of service, although it may not appear until up to two billing cycles after service is restored. Those who’ve suffered a total loss will not be charged for equipment or late fees.

Customers trying to reach Frontier tell of lengthy wait times and phone trees that run in circles with no human contact—the most efficient option may be the online chat service.