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Frontier home internet overview: Everything you need to know

Straightforward pricing and fiber service make Frontier a popular choice for home internet, but low customer satisfaction shows it's not for everyone.

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Frontier Communications

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 can be hit or miss with speeds and reliability. 

On the other hand, if you're in or moving to an area serviceable for Frontier FiberOptic, you'll likely find the speeds and pricing hard to beat. You need to know more than that to decide if Frontier internet is right for your home, though, so let's get right to it.

Is Frontier internet any good?

Ah yes, one of the most vague and vital questions when choosing an internet provider: "Is it any good?" 

While there's much to like about Frontier, there are some significant pain points you may want to consider before signing up. The good news is that Frontier doesn't require a contract, so if you sign up for or already have Frontier and find the experience too frustrating, you can cancel service without penalty.

The good: Frontier FiberOptic offers competitive pricing and can deliver download speeds up to 940 megabits per second over a 100% fiber-optic connection. Frontier Internet, the DSL-based service, doesn't offer the same speed and reliability of Frontier FiberOptic, but it does have better availability and brings internet access to many rural areas that may not otherwise have it. Both service types come with unlimited data, no contracts and your Frontier Wi-Fi equipment rental is included in the monthly price.

The bad: Speeds and service quality are at the mercy of your address. FiberOptic is limited to primarily metropolitan areas in a select few states. Those only eligible for Frontier's DSL plans could get max download speeds anywhere from 1 to 115Mbps. Sub-broadband speeds (less than 25Mbps) are unfortunately common, especially in more rural areas. Customers can also expect a price increase of $10 a month on most plans after 12 months. 

The ugly: Since acquiring AT&T and Verizon networks in various markets over recent years, Frontier has been plagued with bottom-of-the-barrel customer satisfaction ratings. I'll dig in on that in more detail in just a bit, so don't let it spoil your opinion of Frontier before taking a look at plans and service details.

frontier-coverage-map

Frontier's coverage stretches across most states with fiber-optic service available in select areas of 19 states. As of April 2020, Frontier ceased operations in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

FCC/Mapbox

Frontier internet plans, prices and availability

Frontier offers FiberOptic service in 19 states, but availability is largely limited 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 overlap, if any, of Frontier FiberOptic and Frontier Internet availability. Even if both service types happen to be available, it's tough to imagine why anyone would choose Frontier Internet over Frontier FiberOptic. At $50 per month, Frontier's entry-level fiber plan offers download speeds that are twice as fast as Frontier Internet's Preferred plan while costing just $5 more, 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 to DSL are tough to pass up.

Frontier FiberOptic plans

Plan Starting monthly price* Max download speeds
FiberOptic 50Mbps $50 50Mbps
FiberOptic 500Mbps $60 500Mbps
FiberOptic Gig Service $80 940Mbps

Frontier Internet plans

Plan Starting monthly price* Max download speeds
Frontier Basic Internet $38 9Mbps
Frontier Preferred Internet $45 25Mbps
Frontier Premium Internet $55 115Mbps

With Frontier Internet -- the company's DSL plans -- your three options may be limited based on what speeds are actually 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 $38 a month. Speeds of 10-25Mbps will come with the $45 pricing, while 26-115Mbps is $55 a month.

What determines available Frontier Internet 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.

Frontier FiberOptic is more consistent 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. 

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. 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 50Mbps: Best for one to two users, web browsing and light streaming
  • FiberOptic 500Mbps: Best for three to five users, streaming in HD, gaming online and working/learning remotely
  • FiberOptic Gigabit: Best for five or more users and 10 or more devices, streaming in 4K, working/learning on multiple devices.

I'll admit that gigabit internet, from Frontier or other providers, is probably speed overkill for the average household, but those who need an uncompromising connection for gaming or working from home may appreciate the extra oomph. 

Keep in mind that your speeds will be slower when using Wi-Fi. This isn't an issue specific to Frontier Wi-Fi, it's just the nature of using a Wi-Fi connection, which is different from the internet connection running into your home. There are some ways to mitigate the Wi-Fi speed loss, such as upgrading to a better router, or trying any of these tips to boost your Wi-Fi signal

Where is Frontier FiberOptic available?

Until recently, Frontier FiberOptic was reserved to parts of California, Florida, Indiana and Texas. Thanks to recent fiber-optic expansions, the service is now available in select 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 greater 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.

Frontier fees, data caps and other details from the fine print

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

That's not to say the price won't eventually go up. Introductory pricing on most Frontier Internet and Frontier FiberOptic plans are good for 12 months (36 months with gigabit service), after which standard pricing applies and could raise your monthly bill by $10 or more. Frontier does offer a price-for-life guarantee, but it only applies to Frontier Basic Internet speeds of 3, 6 or 9Mbps. While the price guarantee is a nice gesture, I can't say I'd recommend continuously paying just under $40 a month for speeds less than 10Mbps if other, faster options are available.

Additionally, the Frontier router rental fee ($10) is included in the advertised monthly price. The bad news is that the "fee" is 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.  

How does Frontier internet compare?

As a DSL provider, Frontier offers faster max download speeds and lower pricing than most other major DSL providers. AT&T, for example, has max DSL speeds of 75Mbps compared to Frontier's 115Mbps, and a higher starting price of $40 a month (plus an additional $10 a month for equipment). CenturyLink, another top DSL provider, has speed potential similar to Frontier Internet, but the starting price is again a bit higher at $49 a month.

As a fiber internet provider, Frontier doesn't offer anything that particularly stands out. With fiber plans starting at $50 per month, Frontier FiberOptic has a higher starting price than AT&T Fiber ($35 a month) and Verizon Fios ($40 a month), with lower starting speeds. Gigabit plans from Frontier are priced about the same as Verizon Fios, but more expensive than AT&T ($60 a month) and CenturyLink ($65 a month).

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 to 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 $80 a month, for instance -- but you'll get faster upload speeds and unlimited data with Frontier FiberOptic. Spectrum internet, 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.

isp-customer-satisfaction-2020
American Customer Satisfaction Index

Customer satisfaction reports are not pretty

Considering how similar Frontier is to other internet providers, it's difficult to understand why the company consistently ranks so low for customer satisfaction, but the numbers don't lie.

For two consecutive years, the American Customer Satisfaction Index ranked Frontier Communications at the bottom for customer satisfaction with a score of 55 out of 100. For reference, the average of all providers was a 64 and the next lowest provider in 2020 was Suddenlink with a 57. In 2018, Frontier finished in the next-to-last spot with a 54 compared to Mediacom's 53. The year prior, Frontier was last among all providers with a 56.

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 region average in the South despite placing above HughesNet, Suddenlink and Windstream.

So what's the deal with Frontier's consistently low customer satisfaction? Of the 9,294 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 11K (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.

With 789 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 is optimistic 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."

Let's recap

If you can overlook the low customer satisfaction ratings, Frontier internet is probably worth considering for its unlimited data and contract-free service, especially if Frontier FiberOptic is available in your area. Frontier's fiber internet offers speeds and pricing comparable to many other top providers and the 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 available connection type. If you have the choice of cable internet or Frontier Internet, cable service from Xfinity, Spectrum or others will probably offer better speeds and value.

Frontier internet FAQ

What's the best Frontier internet deal?

Frontier FiberOptic 500Mbps offers plenty of speed for streaming, gaming and browsing the web on multiple devices at once and comes with up to 10 times the speed for only $10 a month more than Frontier's lowest-priced fiber plan. 

Other than competitive pricing, unlimited data and no contracts, there typically aren't any exclusive Frontier "deals" or special offers. Some plans may come with a $50 Visa Reward Card when you sign up, but Frontier isn't widely known for offering special deals or extra incentives to new customers.

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."