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Frontier Home Internet Review: Not Bad if Fiber's Available

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

6.0

Frontier home internet

Like

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

Don't Like

  • Slow DSL speeds
  • Poor customer satisfaction record
  • Contract required to get signup bonuses

In this article

Frontier Communications falls into the category of ISPs that use both DSL and fiber-optic networks to deliver internet service. With any 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 Fiber is available at your address, it's definitely worth considering for its fast speeds and fair pricing. 

Along with fast speeds and competitive pricing (aside from a somewhat pricey 2 gigabits-per-second plan that currently includes an Apple TV 4K device and three months of Apple TV Plus), Frontier Fiber plans come with unlimited data, Wi-Fi equipment at no extra cost, or no contract requirements -- so long as you don't accept any of the deal "sweeteners" (like that free Apple TV offer). 

Frontier Internet, the DSL service, 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 faces pending litigation from the Federal Trade Commission 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 Fiber 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 home 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 fiber service in 15 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.

Frontier internet plans and pricing

Frontier home internet plans

Plan Speeds Promo rate (first year) Equipment fee Data cap
Frontier Internet (Copper) Varies $55 None None
Fiber 500 Up to 500Mbps download, 500Mbps upload $50 None None
Fiber Gig Up to 940Mbps download, 880Mbps upload $70 None None
Fiber 2 Gig Up to 2Gbps download, 2Gbps upload $150 None None

When will the price go up, and by how much? Frontier Internet, the copper DSL-based service, comes with a price lock for 24 months. After that, there is no guaranteed or preset price increase. That's not to say your bill will never go up, but price hikes aren't predetermined and guaranteed like with many other ISPs.

As for Frontier Fiber, your price is locked in for 12 months or longer. The gigabit plan, for example, comes with a three-year price lock, so you won't have to worry about a price increase until then. Even after that point, there's no set guarantee that your price will increase.

Data caps, contracts and fees

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 require 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 and then canceling service as soon as they receive it. A gift card of $50 or so is probably no big loss to the company, but an Apple 4K TV and three months of Apple TV Plus is another thing. Understandably, Frontier would not want people taking advantage of the situation by getting the freebie and then immediately bailing on the service.

As for added fees, the Frontier router rental fee ($10) is built into the advertised monthly price. That 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 Internet is slow, even for DSL

With Frontier Internet -- the company's DSL service -- customers have one plan option starting at $55 per month for "varying" speeds. 

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 particularly fast 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 1 to 3Mbps in all service areas. 

On the flip side, there's fiber

OK, let's take a step away from the negative for a moment. Frontier Fiber 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:

  • Fiber 500: Best for three to five users, streaming in HD, gaming online and working or learning remotely.
  • Fiber Gig: Best for five or more users and 10 or more devices, streaming in 4K, working or learning on multiple devices.
  • Fiber 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 Fiber plan to the next, which can make it much easier to find the right plan for your needs. Also, at 500Mbps, Frontier has a faster entry-tier speed than many other providers, including CenturyLink (200Mbps), AT&T (300Mbps) and Verizon Fios (also 300Mbps). 

Fiber availability is expanding

Until recently, Frontier Fiber 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 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 is as good as any, but that doesn't mean much. As mentioned above, DSL speeds vary widely by location, so the overall value of Frontier Internet, and how it compares to other providers, will depend on what kind of speeds you can get.

As a fiber internet provider, Frontier has relatively low prices considering the speeds you get. With fiber plans starting at $50 per month, Frontier Fiber 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 multi-gig services 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 the cost per Mbps. Most cable internet providers offer gigabit download speeds, whereas Frontier Internet will come nowhere close to that. While cable internet plans 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 Fiber is a coin toss and may come down to which cable provider is in your area. For example, Frontier Fiber has pricing similar to Xfinity's cable internet plans on comparable speed tiers -- both providers offer gigabit service starting for around $70 a month, for instance -- but you'll get faster upload speeds and unlimited data with Frontier Fiber. 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 Fiber 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 Frontier Fiber an advantage over most providers, in general.

ACSI rankings for US customer satisfaction with internet service providers
ACSI

Frontier internet customer satisfaction reports are improving, slightly

Customer satisfaction scores are never pretty for cable and internet providers, but for a while there, Frontier's were downright ugly. The American Customer Satisfaction Index ranked the provider last in 2019 and 2020 with scores of 55/100 both years. In 2021, Frontier broke out of the bottom spot with a score of 57/100, edging out Suddenlink's 55. In the most recent 2022 ACSI rankings, Frontier continued to improve with a score of 61/100, passing CenturyLink, Mediacom and Optimum along the way. Frontier's score is still below the industry average, but at least it is showing signs of improvement.

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 5,200 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 continue to 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 and slow DSL speeds, Frontier internet is probably worth considering for its unlimited data, but only if Frontier Fiber 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 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 Fiber 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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