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Frontier Home Internet Review: Not Bad if You Can Get Fiber Service

There's a lot to like about Frontier FiberOptic, but you may want to keep looking if you can only get DSL service at your address.

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Frontier Communications falls into the category of ISPs that utilize DSL and fiber-optic networks to deliver internet service. With each provider, Frontier included, fiber-optic is preferred to DSL for its speeds, reliability and overall value. But with Frontier, the disparity between the two internet service types feels much more pronounced, which makes Frontier Internet, a DSL service, tough to recommend. On the other hand, if Frontier FiberOptic is available at your address, it's definitely worth considering for its fast speeds and fair pricing. 

5.8

Frontier home internet

Like

  • Equipment rental included in the price
  • Unlimited data
  • Fast fiber speeds

Don't Like

  • Unclear price increases
  • DSL speeds slower than advertised
  • Bottom-of-the-barrel customer satisfaction
  • Contract required to get signup bonuses

Along with fast speeds and competitive pricing, aside from a somewhat pricey 2Gbps (that happens comes with a free TV when you sign up), Frontier FiberOptic plans come with unlimited data, Wi-Fi equipment at no extra cost and no contract requirements so long as you don't accept any of the deal "sweeteners" -- like that free TV. 

Frontier Internet (DSL) can be hit or miss, as speeds and performance may vary widely depending on where you live. For the most part, that's par for the course with DSL internet, but the unpredictable speeds and reliability many customers experience on Frontier's DSL network are concerning, to the point that Frontier Communications is facing litigation for failing to deliver promised speeds in six states.

So again, fiber-optic good, DSL bad (maybe). And that's not necessarily a knock against Frontier, that's just the nature of the two service types. Frontier FiberOptic is definitely the way to go given the choice of the two service types, but Frontier Internet could also be a viable option for those in rural areas whose only other available connections are via satellite internet.

frontier-coverage-map
FCC/Mapbox

Frontier internet availability and coverage

Frontier Communications is one of the nation's largest internet providers, available in 25 states from Connecticut to California. Service isn't the same everywhere on the map, however. Most locations will only be eligible for Frontier's DSL-based service, which is tough to recommend, given the slow speeds and Frontier's recent legal troubles.

Frontier offers FiberOptic service in 19 of its 25 states, but availability is limited mainly to metro areas. Everywhere else, like the majority of Connecticut or West Virginia, where Frontier is available throughout most of the state, will have access to Frontier Internet. Again, that means DSL.

There is little availability overlap, if any, between Frontier FiberOptic and Frontier Internet plans. Even if both service types happen to be available, I can't imagine why anyone would choose Frontier Internet over Frontier FiberOptic. 

Frontier internet plans and pricing

Frontier FiberOptic plans

Plan Max speeds Promo rate (first year) Equipment fee Data cap
FiberOptic 500 500Mbps download, 500Mbps upload $50 None None
FiberOptic Gig 940Mbps download, 880Mbps upload $75 None None
FiberOptic 2 Gig 2Gbps download, 2Gbps upload $150 None None

Frontier Internet plans

Plan Max speeds Starting monthly price Equipment fee Data cap
Frontier Basic Internet 9Mbps download, 1Mbps upload $33 None None
Frontier Preferred Internet 25Mbps download, 1Mbps upload $40 None None
Frontier Premium Internet 115Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $50 None None

At $50 per month, Frontier's entry-level fiber plan offers download speeds that are nearly five times faster than max speeds with Frontier Internet's Premium plan for the same price, and you'll enjoy much better upload speeds, too. While Frontier Internet can be a bit cheaper than Frontier FiberOptic, the speeds and connection quality that come with fiber service compared with DSL are hard to pass up.

Possible price increase after 12 months

When will the price go up, and by how much? From what I've gathered, most Frontier internet plans go up around $10 in price after the first 12 months, but a Frontier salesperson indicated that price increases could vary by region. The gigabit plan is a bit more stable, with pricing good for 36 months, and the Basic Internet plan comes with a price-for-life guarantee if you're interested in paying $33 for speeds up to 9 megabits per second for the foreseeable future. Additionally, Frontier's new 2 Gig plan does not have promotional pricing, meaning there is no currently no price increase from the $150 price point after 12 months.

"Generally, our internet prices do not change for the first 12 months," a Frontier spokesman said. "Thereafter, the timing of price changes, if any, depend on the initial promotion the customer signed up under, the status of competition and other market factors. We strive to keep our offerings competitively priced." 

A corporate statement, if there ever was one, and it expectedly doesn't tell us much. Frontier declined to tell us directly what kind of price increases customers should expect, and the information doesn't seem to be available anywhere online, either. It's an unfortunate look, because of all the ISPs CNET has asked about their standard pricing, Frontier is one of the only ones who failed to comment on how much customers would be paying after one year.

Better transparency on data caps, contracts and fees

Much needed bonus points for Frontier here. All internet plans come with unlimited data (to the relief of many rural residents who have endured the strict data limits of satellite internet) and typically require no contract. 

Frontier internet is not totally contract-free, however. If you accept a signup bonus -- gift cards, streaming service subscriptions, electronics, etc. -- it'll also come with agreeing to a contract. For example, new customers who sign up for Gig service can currently get a $200 gift card, but you'll have to sign a contract to get it. If you don't want a contract, simply decline any special offers when you sign up.

It makes sense, I suppose. Frontier doesn't want customers signing up for the free stuff then canceling service as soon as they receive it. A gift card of $50 or $200 is probably no big loss to the company, but Frontier is also currently giving away a 43-inch Amazon Fire TV for those who sign up for the new 2 Gig plan. It's a tempting offer, and one Frontier clearly does not want people taking advantage of.

As for added fees, the Frontier router rental fee ($10) is built into the advertised monthly price. The bad news is that this makes the fee unavoidable even if you buy your own router, so you might as well use the Frontier Wi-Fi equipment unless you need to upgrade to a better device for serious gaming or other specialized internet uses.

Read moreBest Wi-Fi Routers for 2022

Frontier DSL is slow and spotty, even for DSL

With Frontier Internet -- the company's DSL plans -- your three options may be limited based on what speeds are available at your home. For example, if your address is only serviceable for speeds up to 6Mbps, you'll have the Frontier Basic Internet plan starting at $33 a month. Speeds of 10Mbps to 25Mbps will get the $40 pricing, while speeds of 26Mbps to 115Mbps cost $50 a month.

What determines available speeds? You guessed it, your address. More specifically, it's how far your home is from a local transmitting station. DSL speeds diminish over long distances, so the farther away you are, the lower your speeds are likely to be. As an unfortunate result, remote rural locations are often stuck with the lowest speeds.

Don't count on the fastest speeds being available in your area, or even speeds that could be considered broadband, for that matter. Only about 10% of households in Frontier DSL service areas are eligible for speeds above 100Mbps, and less than a third can get speeds at or above 25Mbps, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Upload speeds are a sadder story. Regardless of available download speeds, upload speeds top out at 1Mbps to 3Mbps in all service areas. 

DSL customers have had enough

Slow speeds and reliability issues are typical with DSL service, but they seem more so with Frontier. Along with the sparse availability of speeds over 25Mbps, outages are an apparent issue with Frontier service.

Downdetector.com has thousands of outage reports from all over the country for Frontier within just the last few months. Some users reported their service being out for days at a time with no indication of when they could expect service to return.

Outages are bad, but worse yet, Frontier faces legal action over complaints about how fast its DSL service actually is. Specifically, the Federal Trade Commission and six states are suing Frontier in response to continued protests that the provider misled customers on the internet speeds they would receive. 

On the flip side, there's fiber

OK, let's take a step away from the negative for a moment. Frontier FiberOptic is more consistent than DSL as far as the available speeds and pricing. For the most part, the speeds and pricing listed above are applicable in all markets, though there may be some locations not eligible for gigabit service. Each plan comes with symmetrical or near-symmetrical upload speeds, a perk typically only available with fiber-optic service. Here are my recommendations for each plan:

  • FiberOptic 500: Best for three to five users, streaming in HD, gaming online and working/learning remotely.
  • FiberOptic Gig: Best for five or more users and 10 or more devices, streaming in 4K, working/learning on multiple devices.
  • FiberOptic 2 Gig: Best for a large household or those planning for the future and an increasing number of connected devices.

You'll notice a significant speed jump from one FiberOptic plan to the next, which can make it much easier to find the right plan for your needs. Frontier also has faster entry tier speeds than many other providers, including AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon Fios at 500Mbps. 

FiberOptic availability is expanding

Until recently, Frontier FiberOptic was reserved for parts of California, Florida, Indiana and Texas. Thanks to recent fiber-optic expansions, the service is now available in areas of 15 additional states, including Arizona, Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and West Virginia. 

Though availability is still somewhat limited, Frontier has acknowledged the need for more significant fiber expansion and plans to extend service to more areas in the near future. "Frontier is targeting substantial fiber upgrades over the next several years to locations in and near Frontier's footprint," a spokesperson said.

How does Frontier internet compare?

As a DSL provider, Frontier offers faster maximum download speeds and lower pricing than most other major DSL providers. AT&T, for example, has maximum DSL speeds of 75Mbps, compared with Frontier's 115Mbps, and a higher starting price of $55 a month. CenturyLink, another top DSL provider, has speed potential similar to Frontier Internet, but again, the starting price is a bit higher at $49 a month. 

While Frontier has faster maximum download speeds than many DSL providers, it's important to note that the fastest speeds are only available to around 10% of customers. By comparison, AT&T's fastest DSL speeds are available to approximately 40% of customers, and CenturyLink has speeds of 100Mbps or higher in more than a quarter of its markets. Maximum upload speeds with AT&T and CenturyLink are also significantly higher than with Frontier. 

As a fiber internet provider, Frontier has relatively low prices considering the speeds you get. With fiber plans starting at $50 per month, Frontier FiberOptic has a lower starting price than AT&T Fiber ($55 a month), yet slightly higher than Verizon Fios ($40 a month), but it does offer significantly faster speeds at 500Mbps versus the 300Mbps you'd get with AT&T or Verizon Fios. Gigabit service from Frontier is also cheaper than Verizon Fios ($90 a month) and AT&T ($80 a month), but slightly more expensive than CenturyLink ($65 a month). Value drops a bit with the 2 Gig plan as AT&T, Google Fiber, Ziply Fiber and others have lower starting prices on multigig service than Frontier.

In all likelihood, you won't have the option of other DSL or fiber providers in Frontier service areas. Competing internet providers of the same technology typically avoid offering internet in the same areas. You will, however, find cable internet providers such as Spectrum or Xfinity to be available in many Frontier service areas.

Cable beats DSL, fiber beats cable

Cable internet providers that you'll find in Frontier service areas include Mediacom, Spectrum, Suddenlink and Xfinity, among others. When compared with cable internet, Frontier Internet is likely to be slower and more expensive, especially when you consider cost per Mbps. Most cable internet providers offer gigabit download speeds, whereas Frontier Internet tops out at 115Mbps. While cable internet plan pricing can reach $100 a month or higher, the speeds you get for the price are likely to be a much better value.

Cable internet versus Frontier FiberOptic is a coin toss and may come down to which cable provider is in your area. For example, Frontier FiberOptic has pricing similar to Xfinity's cable internet plans on comparable speed tiers -- both providers offer gigabit service starting for around $75 a month, for instance -- but you'll get faster upload speeds and unlimited data with Frontier FiberOptic. Spectrum's internet service, on the other hand, is priced a bit higher than Frontier, but also comes with the conveniences of unlimited data and no contracts. 

Ultimately, if Frontier FiberOptic is available in your area, I'd likely recommend it over cable internet service, especially if you're considering the higher 500Mbps or gigabit speed tiers. The pricing is likely to be on par with or lower than similar tiers from a cable provider, and the straightforward pricing and unlimited data give FiberOptic an advantage over most providers, in general.

acsi-isp-customer-service-ratings-2021
American Customer Satisfaction Index

Frontier internet customer satisfaction reports are not pretty

In the most recent report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Frontier Communications finally broke out of the bottom spot where it resided for two consecutive years. The ACSI gave Frontier a 2021 score of 57/100, edging out Suddenlink's score of 55. The two providers swapped spots as last year Frontier came in at 55 and Suddenlink was runner up with a 57 (given what we know about Frontier, it makes me wonder what Suddenlink is doing to get such low scores). Frontier was again alone at the bottom in 2019 with another 55. That's consistent, at least.

Frontier Communications didn't fare well with customer satisfaction reporter J.D. Power, either, coming in last in three out of four regions. Frontier ranked last in the East, North Central and West regions, and fell well below the regional average in the South despite placing above Kinetic by Windstream, CenturyLink, Suddenlink and HughesNet.

So what's the deal with Frontier's consistently low customer satisfaction? Of the over 5,800 Frontier customer complaints to the Better Business Bureau closed within the past three years, it appears that service disruptions, poor customer service and lack of speed upgrades in rural areas are all commonly and consistently experienced issues. 

When contacted by the BBB in 2019 regarding a "high volume and pattern of serious complaints," Frontier's response admitted that the company had "disappointed customers," but pointed much of the blame at its acquisitions of infrastructure in Connecticut from AT&T and in California, Texas and Florida from Verizon.

"As the BBB points out, many of the 11,000 (as of December 2019) complaints made on this platform resulted from the transition of services in those two transactions," reads Frontier's response. "We have worked diligently to address the issues raised and restore credibility. Issues related to those transactions have been resolved."

While service disruptions and negative customer experiences can certainly happen during a technical transition, it's worth pointing out that these acquisitions took place in 2016, yet Frontier's response to the BBB came in December 2019 -- and similar complaints from customers are still coming in.

Out of over 540 BBB customer reviews, Frontier currently has an average of 1.04 out of 5 stars. And while internet service providers are notorious for low review scores, Frontier's review score feels exceptionally low.

Despite a tough run in recent years, Frontier expresses optimism that customer satisfaction will improve. "We work hard to meet customer needs and to provide the best quality and most competitive telecommunications products and services to the customers and communities we serve," a spokesperson said. "Customer service excellence is a top priority for our new leadership."

Recap of Frontier internet service

If you can overlook the low customer satisfaction ratings, Frontier internet is probably worth considering for its unlimited data, but only if Frontier FiberOptic is available in your area. Frontier's fiber internet offers speeds and pricing comparable to many other top providers, and fiber's fast upload speeds and reliability give it an edge over cable internet service.

Depending on the available speeds, Frontier's DSL-based service could be the best internet option in many rural areas where satellite is the only other way to connect. Reports of slow and spotty service, however, may make you want to give satellite internet another look. 

Frontier internet FAQ

What's the best Frontier internet deal?

Starting at $50 per month, Frontier's entry-level FiberOptic plan offers speeds up to 500Mbps -- plenty of speed for streaming, gaming and browsing the web on multiple devices at once -- and comes with unlimited data and no additional equipment costs. The plan also comes with a $50 gift card for signing up, but remember, accepting the gift card means opting into a contract as well.

Does Frontier have free Wi-Fi?

Frontier includes Wi-Fi service and equipment rental in the monthly price, so while Frontier Wi-Fi is not exactly "free," it won't add anything to the total plan cost. 

Should I be concerned about Frontier's recent Chapter 11 filing?

When Frontier Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2020, it was with the intent to restructure debt and allow for further long-term growth. In the announcement, Frontier stated the company "expects to continue providing quality service to its customers without interruption," so current and new customers should not see any service issues as a result of the restructuring process. A Frontier Communications spokesperson reinforced this statement, telling CNET, "The Company expects to emerge from Chapter 11 reorganization in early 2021, and upon emergence will have significantly reduced debt and can move forward with enhanced financial flexibility that allows for continued investment in an improved customer experience and long-term growth."

Since that time, Frontier has indeed emerged from bankruptcy and, per its third-quarter 2021 press release, now boasts over $2 billion in liquidity to help it bolster fiber broadband growth.

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