Frontier-CETF shotgun marriage will continue til death do us part

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Shotgun wedding

Frontier Communications and the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) have tentatively settled a dispute over a mandated low income broadband marketing program. Under the terms of the agreement, instead of ending last year, as previously scheduled…

  • The program will continue indefinitely.
  • Frontier will pay CETF an additional $25,000.
  • CETF won’t have to pay back any of the approximately $700,000 remaining from the $1 million advanced to it.
  • Performance goals remain “aspirational” rather than hard targets.
  • The two organisations will hold lots of meetings and exchange lots of reports, mostly about things they plan to do, with no obligation to perform and complete freedom to unilaterally change their minds.
  • Frontier gets an extra couple of years to complete the gargantuan task of installing 33 free WiFi hotspots.

The program was one of the conditions imposed by the California Public Utilities Commission when it allowed Frontier to buy Verizon’s wireline telephone systems in California in 2015. It had the delusional aspirational goal of signing up 200,000 qualifying subscribers to low priced broadband plans, offered to low income households by Frontier and other Internet service providers.

The original deadline was 30 June 2018. By that point, about 9,200 low income subs had been signed up. CETF and the non-profit organisations it’s working with accounted for 4,300 of those new subs, versus a funded quota of 50,000 (the rest were signed up by Frontier, though its normal sales channels). The deal was that Frontier would pay $60 per new sub, with a total budget of $3 million.

The settlement keeps the $3 million on the table until the non-profits hit the 50,000 new sub mark, or until everyone gets tired of the whole thing. It could take a long time. Although Frontier’s initial obligation expired at the end of last June, it agreed to extend it another year. During the past six months or so, CETF’s non-profit clients only signed up another 200 subscribers, according to the numbers in the settlement agreement.

The next step is for the CPUC to review the settlement, and decide whether or not to accept it.