LOWVILLE — Despite a recent report by a national news outlet that Frontier Communications Inc. is expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March, the company and the Empire State Development Corp. are confident New NY Broadband program deadlines will be met in Lewis County.
In a Jan. 16 article published online by Bloomberg, unnamed sources “with knowledge of the matter” made the bankruptcy assertion following a meeting in which the company’s new chief executive officer, Bernie Han, told creditors the company wants a “pre-packaged agreement” before $356 million worth of debt payments are due in mid-March.
In response to a request for comment on the potential for bankruptcy, the Connecticut-based company’s Corporate Communications Vice President Javier Mendoza issued a statement via email.
“As we have said publicly, Frontier is evaluating its capital structure with an eye to reducing debt so as to be able to better serve our customers,” Mr. Mendoza said.
He also emphasized that Frontier’s customers “should expect no changes” to the services they receive.
In July, Frontier was awarded $6.2 million to provide high-speed fiber optic internet service to 1,916 locations around Lewis County by the Broadband Program Office, a division of the Empire State Development Corp., as part of the New NY Broadband Program.
While the actual construction of the infrastructure has not yet begun, it may start soon.
“Frontier engineering, planning and other activity is nearing completion for the Lewis County Project. Some required materials have already been ordered. Once materials are received, Frontier will begin laying fiber cable and connecting to poles,” Mr. Mendoza wrote in a separate statement.
An Empire spokesperson added that like all other companies that have participated in the broadband project to make high speed internet available to all state residents, the program requires broadband companies, including Frontier, to complete the work before they are reimbursed the awarded money.
A company outside of the broadband program verifies all work done before any reimbursements are made, the spokesperson said.
Frontier is expected to provide their fiber optic broadband to the majority of households that currently have no access in the towns of New Bremen, West Turin and Turin, while in Croghan, Montague, Lyonsdale, Martinsburg, Lewis, Watson and Leyden, Frontier will service about half of the households in need of service.
In both sets of towns, Hughes Net will provide satellite internet service at 25 megabits per second for households not covered by Frontier.
Service in the towns of Diana, Pinckney, Denmark, Greig, Harrisburg Lowville and Osceola will be provided almost entirely by Hughes Net.
Empire and Frontier representatives said the project in Lewis County is on track and all of the targeted households should have high speed broadband access by Oct. 31.
Frontier’s fiber-optic broadband service under the New NY Broadband Program will be offered at $60 per month guaranteed for five years,
At the close of NASDAQ trading on Friday, Frontier’s stock price was 58 cents per share, a continuation of the decline since March 2016 when shares were $85.31 each. At its peak in 1993, Frontier shares sold for $273.61.
According to the Bloomberg article, “A Frontier Bankruptcy would rank as one of the biggest telecom reorganizations since Worldcom Inc. in 2002.