AT&T and Frontier allowed their copper networks to deteriorate over the last decade, CPUC network study finds

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) released a damning 2019 network quality study critical of AT&T and Frontier after rejecting the companies’ attempts to halt its release. According to the report, AT&T and Frontier allowed their copper networks to deteriorate over the last decade. The deterioration resulted in lengthy outages and service quality issues for customers. Those particularly hit hard included low-income neighborhoods that lacked alternative providers. 

The report includes the following  key findings:

1. Service Quality has deteriorated - Both carriers exhibited a higher relative number of outages and longer time required to restore service for outages lasting more than 24 hours.

2. Demonstrated lack of resiliency - AT&T and Frontier are not maintaining networks to withstand environmental and weather-related conditions.  Networks are not robust, both Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) have cut back on preventative maintenance expenditures.  

3. Disinvestment in Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) - AT&T and Frontier are putting very little investment into infrastructure that supports only Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) service.  Both ILECs are relying on price increases and customer inertia to maintain revenue streams. 

4. Increased investment in broadband improves POTS service quality - AT&T and Frontier areas with higher broadband investment have a higher level of POTS service quality and better performance. 

5. AT&T is focusing on higher income communities - AT&T wire centers serving areas with the lowest household incomes exhibit higher trouble report rates and longer out-of-service durations than areas in higher income communities.

6. Direct relationship between amount of competition and service quality results - Areas with limited or no competition experience lower service quality results.  Both AT&T and Frontier put more investment and attention in areas with higher rates of competitive offerings.  

Links:

AT&T and Frontier have let phone networks fall apart, Calif. regulator finds (ARS Technica, Feb. 22, 2021)