The Communications Workers of America (CWA) has asked the FCC to reject efforts by West Virginia legislators to block Frontier Communications’ successful bid for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) funding.
Frontier won $247 million to serve almost 79,000 locations in the state. It says that it will bring gigabit connectivity to many of those locations.
The company is currently in bankruptcy, but expects to emerge in the first quarter of 2021.
A CWA letter about Frontier, which is addressed to outgoing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, is a response to two letters from West Virginia legislators. One is a December 9 letter from Senator Shelley Moore Capito that expresses concerns and asks the FCC to keep this in mind as it reviews the long-form application required for the Frontier RDOF win. The other is a December 16 letter from a group of legislators urging rejection of the long-form application in the auction.
The CWA Frontier letter is from District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney. It argues that Frontier’s bankruptcy reorganization will reduce the company’s debt obligation by more than $10 billion and its annual interest obligations by $1 billion. This, the letter said, will better position Frontier for broadband success.
The letter pointed out that the proposed December 18, 2020 Joint Settlement resolving issues related to West Virginia Public Service Commission’s review of the bankruptcy restructuring would lead to significant upgrades to Frontier’s infrastructure in the state. Mooney also said in a press release – but not in the letter to the FCC — that incoming Frontier CEO Nick Jeffery’s tenure as CEO at Vodafone UK featured large scale fiber deployments. Mooney suggests this as a positive sign for Frontier. Jeffery takes over on March 21, 2021.
The union represents about 1,200 employees in West Virginia. “CWA members at Frontier have led the way in exposing how the company’s previous leadership’s failures to invest in broadband infrastructure — especially cutting hundreds of technician jobs across the state — have led to problems with service quality and availability for West Virginians,” Mooney said in the press release supporting the Frontier RDOF win. “While CWA supports oversight to ensure that federal funding is going directly to broadband deployment, Frontier is a major broadband provider in West Virginia and is fully capable of deploying service to additional locations. It would be unrealistic to achieve large-scale build-out in the state without Frontier.”
Capito’s letter to the FCC expressed concern but only called for rejection of the application if the FCC found it necessary after its assessment.