Over the past decade the company Frontier Communications has been providing internet and phone services that are sub-par and do not meet expectations. Many of their customers have been affected and the company still has not addressed the issues properly. Frontier has made many empty promises over the years which has led to a lot of the issues they have as a service provider.
This paper will
analyze the actions of Frontier and determine if their business dealings are
ethical or unethical by looking into the four major ethical theories which are
Individualism, Utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Virtue Theory. Looking at the company’s
actions from an individualist point of view their business dealings would be considered
ethical. Since an Individualist’s main goal is profit while staying within the
law Frontier would be ethical. On the contrary, a Utilitarian would view
Frontiers actions as unethical. This is because many of Frontiers customers
were brought harm while many high up executives benefited from the way the
company has been run. Many people were left without internet or phone services
for extended periods of time and in some cases had no access to emergency
services. Observing Frontier through Kantian business ethics they are also seen
to be unethical. Frontier did not respect people or act rationally therefore
violating Kantianism. Lastly, through Virtue theory Frontier would also be
unethical in their business operation. They lacked having any courage, temperance,
justice, and honesty in their operation therefore violating Virtue Theory. For
Frontier to become profitable and be ethical they need to restructure their
business model and focus more on customer service. They also need to invest
money into their aging network of copper lines which have decayed over the
years causing a large majority of their issues.
Ethics Case ControversyFrontier Communications has been a long-standing internet and phone service provider in the United States offering their network in 29 states. Over the past decade they have failed to run the company properly leading to a lot of issues for customers. People have been left without service for days or even weeks at a time and Frontier is not doing what they should be doing. The West Virginia Public Service Commission investigated Frontiers copper wire telephone network and has found that their services are seriously lacking and need improvements. “In the last year, 1,342 complaints about poor service were filed with the state’s Public Service Commission.” (Dampier). Frontier has made some improvements in their system to detect outages as well as a better tree-trimming program to try and reduce outages, but their main issue is their lack of investment into their copper wire telephone lines. Many companies have upgraded to fiber optics, but Frontier still mainly uses copper wire for their network. “Frontier rejected the idea as “unfeasible,” claiming it would cost $100 million to complete fiber connections to each of Frontier’s 3,255 existing cross box locations.” (Dampier). The company claimed they would have to pass these expenses down to the customers if they were to do such upgrades. Other companies have much less issues providing proper coverage without raising customer prices, so this is a large problem.
As a result of the many issues that have come to light Frontier was audited starting in 2010. When this audit was complete and released to the public Frontier quickly removed it to change things in their favor. “Blacked out information included the company’s worst performing areas, workforce concerns, the age of its network, a huge drop in customers and a dour glimpse at the company’s poorly performing internet services in West Virginia.” (Allen). Frontier redacted the audit because they said they wanted to protect trade secrets, but they were really hiding a lot of unpleasant information regarding their network. “Almost half the network is 36 to 47 years old. There are roughly 952,000 areas of the network that are susceptible to “moisture, corrosion, loose connections, etc. that may cause interruptions of service to customers,” according to the report.” (Allen). The report also says that Frontier is projected to lose 50% of their skilled field employees over the next 5 years. This would be a major hit and would greatly impact their service capabilities. With a company such as Frontier servicing their lines should be a top priority. Since every one of their customers relies on the lines for their services, Frontier should be putting most of their effort into making sure they are reliable, so people do not face extended outages.
With all these issues the company is struggling with they have seen a major drop in customers. As a result, they have lost a lot of revenue and in April of 2020 they declared bankruptcy. In early February in the months leading up to Frontier declaring bankruptcy they were receiving a lot of scrutiny over leaving people without phone services for weeks at a time. “US Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) sent letters to Frontier and the Federal Communications Commission last week, saying that Frontier's failure to quickly restore service during outages has put residents in danger.” (Brodkin). These extended outages are very detrimental to a lot of people seeing how Frontier offers services in 29 states. Some of the most troubling reports regarding the outages is many people cannot even make calls to 911 services. This has already been an issue and has affected people in life threatening situations. “Unfortunately, failure to connect with 911 has reportedly already occurred during life-threatening situations, such as the choking of a child, and the collapsing of a shed on a gentleman during a heavy snowstorm.” (Brodkin). This is a very scary problem, and many residents of Wisconsin are fearful that the outages will result in deaths. Not having access to emergency services should be a major concern for Frontier but they seem to neglect it.
Another issue that Frontier has been struggling with is customer support. They seriously lack it and have a lot of issues with people not being able to get answers in a reasonable time. Frontier customers in Tampa Bay are facing. “In more than 100 tweets to the internet and cable provider, customers said their internet wasn’t working and they were unable to reach Frontier’s customer service line.” (Carollo). Not only were many people experiencing outages the Frontier customer service was unreachable. Some even reported not being able to access the Frontier app or website. People were even hung up on over the phone or left on hold for hours at a time. This is a very large issue especially during the Corona Virus pandemic since many people are working from home and rely on internet access to do their job.
This controversy involves three main stakeholders. The first stakeholder is Frontier Communications as a whole. They are the ones who are providing the poor internet and phone services which have affected many people across the nation for decades. The next stakeholder is the executives of Frontier. They have seen major benefits during the duration of this controversy and have not done everything they could to help. The last stakeholder in this controversy is the customers of Frontier. They have suffered the worst from this problem and in some cases been put in life threatening situations because of Frontiers actions.
The main goal of individualism is to maximize profit for a business while remaining within the lines of the law. Individualists also look to act rationally and do things in the best interest of the company. In Frontier communications case they are not ethical in the eyes of Individualism business ethics. Frontier has struggled to put the company in the right direction leading them to losing tons of revenue. One major factor in the loss of revenue is their customer base shrinking. “Frontier has 3.63 million broadband subscribers in 29 states, down from 3.86 million a year ago.” (Brodkin). This major drop in customers has also caused Frontier to lay off a lot of employees bringing their total employee count from 21,718 to 19,872.
Utilitarianism business ethics believes that happiness of every party involved is the only thing that has value and should be the top priority of any business. Frontier Communications violates this in many ways making them very unethical in terms of Utilitarianism. Wile many of the high up executives in the company did have their happiness a top priority a vast majority of their customers were neglected. “Yet earlier this spring, at the height of the pandemic and after declaring bankruptcy, Frontier paid out $38 million in retention bonuses to its top executives” (Dampier). This action is very unethical seeing how these same executives receiving the bonuses are the ones who lead Frontier down this path leading to bankruptcy.
The main idea behind Kantian business ethics is to act rationally. This means to not consider yourself above the law and to make decisions accordingly. The Formula of Humanity is also a factor in Kantianism, and it states that you should never treat someone as a means to an end. Based off this definition Frontier Communications did not act ethically according to Kantianism. Frontier has done many unnational acts that make the way they run their business unethical. For example, when people were struggling with outages in Tampa Florida the Frontier customer service was unreachable. Some people even tweeted about being left on hold for over an hour or getting hung up on as soon as they reached a person. Giving out major bonuses is also an action that is not rational. These bonuses were issued at the height of the pandemic right around the time the company filed for bankruptcy.
Virtue Theory has four main characteristics that allow things to function properly. These are courage, temperance, Justice, and honesty. Frontier Communications have violated these virtues in many ways. The first virtue is courage which is the willingness to stand up for what is right and to make the correct decisions. Frontier has not acted with courage as they have blatantly left their customers without help repeatedly. In the height of the current pandemic where most of the nation is relying on internet and phone service to do their jobs frontier has left people without internet for days.
The next characteristic of Virtue Theory is temperance. This virtue is described as having expectations and desires that are reasonable. It can also be described as having self-control. In Frontiers case they violated this virtue and did not meet the expectations their customers have making them unethical. One example of this is their customers expect to have quality service and customer support. This has not been the case for Frontier as they have thousands of complaints across many states showing how poorly they operate.
Justice is also a major factor in the ideas of Virtue Theory. Justice is described as a company who put in hard work, creates quality products, has good ideas, and partakes in fair practices. Frontier has not been successful in following these and therefore unethical according to Virtue Theory. To start off putting in hard work has not been achieved by the company. they have struggled for years with severe outages and poor customer service. Next, having quality products has also been violated since Frontier has some of the worst internet speeds compared to other companies. They also have not had many good ideas or done fair practices as they gave out $38 million in bonuses to the top executives who were the reason for bringing the company down.
The last virtue is honesty which has also been violated by frontier making them unethical. In terms of Virtue Theory honesty is making sure that a business is honest to employees, customers and other companies as well as making honest agreements. One example of Frontiers lack of honesty is their poor internet services in New York. There website is quoted saying Frontier “invested nearly $540 million since 2011 in the New York network," allowing it "to offer faster broadband speeds to approximately 85,000 New York households in the upgraded service areas." (Brodkin). Seeing how Frontier has the lowest internet speeds in New York out of any provider at only 7.4Mbps this is obviously dishonest.
After a through investigation into Frontier Communications I believe they are very unethical in thein business dealings and a lot could have been avoided. Frontier has been receiving complaints regarding their poor services for years and has done very little to change for the better. One large issue they have is their aging copper cable network. “the copper cable network is more than 49,000 miles long” (Allen). Nearly half of this network is over 40 years old which makes it susceptible to corrosion and moisture problems. These corrosion issues are what lead to the severe outages happening across various states. Also, Frontier has very bad customer support which should be a top priority for any business that is looking to be successful. Overall, viewing this case from the point of views of the four ethical theories Frontier Communications operates their business very unethically.
Company Action Plan
Frontier still has a lot of issues and will need to make big changes if they ever wish to be profitable and ethical again. They have already taken a good step in the right direction by filing chapter 11 bankruptcy. By doing this they can get rid of some of their debt as well a restructure the company. They also need to greatly step up their customer support. Having people wait for hours on hold to get answers about why they have no service is not okay. Along with this they need to upgrade their website and app accessibility as many customers have complained about not being able to access them. Solving this issue would be major as many people rely on their providers website to get information regarding outages or other issues.
Another major problem that Frontier needs to fix to become profitable is to fix their aging network of copper lines. Much of their network lines are very old which cause issues with them easily breaking. This is a major factor in people losing their internet and phone services for extended periods of time. One-way Frontier could solve this problem is by upgrading to fiber optics lines. These lines are corrosion resistant and much more durable which would make for a more reliable network which in the long run would need less maintenance. Along with this they also need to have better response teams for outage problems. living in a very online world not having internet is very detrimental to people and Frontier leaving people without it for weeks is unacceptable. They need to increase their maintenance workers to be prepared for unexpected service problems. If Frontier changes all these things, they might have a chance of becoming a profitable business again. Fixing these issues will also bring back trust in their customers which will bring back lost customers ultimately bringing in more revenue.
Jon Brodkin - Aug 12, 2019 7:26 pm UTC. “Frontier Network Outages Get Worse in NY, Triggering State Investigation.” Ars Technica, 12 Aug. 2019, arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/08/frontier-network-outages-get-worse-in-ny-triggering-state-investigation/.
Dampier, Phillip. “W.V Orders Frontier to Improve Service to Address Over 1,300 Complaints in Last 12 Months.” Stop the Cap!, Sept. 2020, stopthecap.com/tag/service-outages/.
Jon Brodkin - Feb 12, 2020 9:20 pm UTC. “Frontier, Nearing Bankruptcy, Faces Scrutiny over Weeks-Long Phone Outages.” Ars Technica, 12 Feb. 2020, arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2020/02/frontier-nearing-bankruptcy-faces-scrutiny-over-weeks-long-phone-outages/.
West Virginia Public Broadcasting | By Emily Allen. “Newly Revealed Data Shows Problems with Frontier's W.Va. Landline Phone System.” WVPB, 14 Apr. 2020, www.wvpublic.org/news/2020-04-10/newly-revealed-data-shows-problems-with-frontiers-w-va-landline-phone-system.
Carollo, Malena. “Frontier Customers around Tampa Bay Complain of Internet Outage.” Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Bay Times, 6 July 2020, www.tampabay.com/news/business/2020/07/06/frontier-customers-around-tampa-bay-complain-of-internet-outage/.
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