SC reg­u­la­tors in­ves­ti­gate land­lines dead for month

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Business -

GE­ORGE­TOWN, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina reg­u­la­tors are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether a com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany is spend­ing money prop­erly af­ter a small Ge­orge­town County com­mu­nity didn’t have land­line phone ser­vice for nearly a month.

Peo­ple who live in St. Luke, about 20 miles north of Ge­orge­town, say their com­mu­nity is so iso­lated that cell­phone ser­vice is spotty and land­lines can be a life­saver.

Fron­tier Com­mu­ni­ca­tions uses ag­ing cop­per wires in­stead of fiber op­tic lines and that’s why it took 24 days to fix the out­age that af­fected more than 20 cus­tomers, state in­ves­ti­ga­tors said.

“Fron­tier in­di­cated the network equip­ment that caused the ex­tended out­age was an­ti­quated, no longer sup­ported by the man­u­fac­turer, lo­cated in a re­mote area, and ‘had run its course,’” the Of­fice of Reg­u­la­tory Staff wrote in a report ob­tained by The Post and Courier of Charleston.

Ru­ral phone com­pa­nies get state money to keep up equip­ment in ex­change for pro­vid­ing ser­vice. Reg­u­la­tors are ask­ing how Fron­tier Com­mu­ni­ca­tions is spend­ing the $6.6 mil­lion it gets from the Univer­sal Ser­vice Fund each year.

“Fron­tier has used the sup­port it has re­ceived from the South Carolina

Univer­sal Ser­vice Fund for the pur­pose in­tended by law — mak­ing af­ford­able tele­phone ser­vice avail­able to our South Carolina cus­tomers,” the Con­necti­cut-based com­pany said in a writ­ten state­ment. “Fron­tier will co­op­er­ate with any au­dit of the Com­pany’s use of those funds.”

Jimmy Young said the phone out­age caused a re­cent health scare to be even more stress­ful. Home alone while his wife was at church, the 74-year-old grand­fa­ther felt his blood pres­sure drop.

The home phone by his re­cliner hadn’t worked for weeks. Cell­phone ser­vice some­times doesn’t work, but Young said he went ahead and called 911. The sig­nal was go­ing in and out and he was weak, so Young said he just kept re­peat­ing his ad­dress.

Young said he felt bet­ter by the time paramedics ar­rived. But the stress of not be­ing able to im­me­di­ately reach for help is hard to for­get.

“It’s hard for me to tell you now how long it was. It seemed like it was for­ever,” said Young, a former steel­worker.

Fron­tier Com­mu­ni­ca­tions is pub­licly traded and op­er­ates in around 30 states. But the de­crease in land­lines has hurt the com­pany deeply. Its stock price has fallen from more than $80 per share to less than $1.

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