Frontier Communications has agreed to spend an additional $150 million to upgrade its network in the parts of West Virginia that currently have the slowest Internet speeds, following a settlement with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office.
The settlement comes after Morrisey's office began an investigation into how Frontier was advertising its Internet speeds. Frontier had been advertising speeds of "up to 6 megabits per second, but many customers found speeds of 1.5 megabits per second or lower, according to the settlement.
For those customers, about 28,000 in West Virginia, Frontier will also lower its monthly prices to $9.99, a savings of at least $10 a month. That lower rate will remain in effect until their Internet speeds reach 6 megabits per second. The Federal Communications Commission recently changed its standards and does not consider anything below 25 megabits per second to be high-speed Internet.
Frontier spokesman Andy Malinoski said affected customers would automatically see the savings starting with bills dated after Jan. 25, 2016. Those customers are spread across nearly every one of the state's counties, Malinoski said.
"The reduced rate gives Frontier a strong incentive to raise speeds for these customers, Morrisey said in a news release announcing the settlement.
The $150 million in upgrades that Frontier has agreed to make will be specifically targeted to those 28,000 customers.
"The settlement helps consumers receive the high-speed service they expected, while directing significant monies to help fix connectivity issues that consistently kept our state from achieving economic success, Morrisey said.
The money is in addition to $180 million that Frontier already expected to spend on upgrades as part of the Connect America Fund II, a federal program that provides matching federal dollars to upgrade Internet connectivity in hard to reach areas.
As part of that program, the FCC provided some of the nation's largest broadband providers with more than $1 billion, including $238 million in June to Frontier for their network nationwide.
"There would have been investment, but not as specific as this, Malinoski said. "This is a big deal, it's an additional investment.
He said that Frontier was hoping to have most of the newly announced upgrades complete by the end of 2017.
Frontier has spent about $600 million since 2010 upgrading its network in West Virginia, Malinoski said.
Frontier admitted no wrongdoing as part of the agreement. They agreed to the settlement to avoid a costly and protracted legal battle, Morrisey's office said.
The agreement negotiated by Morrisey's office also requires Frontier to contribute $500,000 to the state's Consumer Protection Fund.
Frontier also agreed not to pass on any of the costs associated with the settlement to consumers through rate increases to any other customers.
Staff writer Andrew Brown contributed to this report.
Reach David Gutman at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5119 or follow @davidlgutman on Twitter.
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