Like many rural homeowners, our house is beyond the range of reliable cell phone service. Thus our landline phone is our lifeline for reaching emergency help. For people like me who have an implanted pacemaker that is monitored through the phone line by a hospital, my landline is literally a lifeline.
Recently my landline service went dead when a construction crew accidentally cut a buried phone trunk line. Even with a medically expedited repair order, which required a letter from my doctor, Frontier (who operate landlines in many rural areas) took two weeks to restore service.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection cannot do anything about poor service; neither can any other state agency. Since the Legislature deregulated the telecommunications industry in 2011, Frontier has operated as a monopoly with little oversight or accountability.
My experience with Frontier is not unusual. Nationally, thousands of complaints have been filed with the Better Business Bureau and other watchdog organizations. A recent scathing report by the Minnesota Department of Commerce cited Frontier for shoddy service and inadequate investment in its own network: “Customers have suffered outages of months or more. Some of those service outages hit Frontier customers with urgent medical needs, including those with pacemakers monitored via landline phone service.”
Please tell your legislative representatives and the Public Service Commission that requiring timely repairs of rural landlines is necessary to protect the safety and health of rural residents.
Send your letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.