Wednesday , June 3 2020

Frontier bungles redaction of network audit that it doesn’t want you to see, Ars Technica

    

      Big-time oops –

             

Blacked-out text is readable, revealing 1790, potential network problems.

      

      

Frontier is trying to hide large portions of an audit report from the public, claiming that details about the ISP’s broadband-network problems are trade secrets. But when Frontier made a redacted version of the report public, many of the blacked-out parts were still readable simply by copying and pasting from the document.

The Frontier-edited version of the – page report, which was ordered by the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) and written by a consultant firm, includes about redacted exhibits and many pages that have been fully or partially blacked out. Frontier seems to have successfully redacted the exhibits, including many charts, but the blacked-out text is easy to lift. ( Update : It turns out

some of the exhibits weren’t properly redacted , either.)

For example, one redacted sentence says that “Frontier WV’s copper network has at least , connection points that are susceptible to moisture, corrosion, loose connections, etc. that may cause interruptions of service to customers. ” That “, “number was blacked out, but it’s still readable if you copy it from the document. We’ve uploaded the document to our server in case it gets taken down from the PSC website

– you can (view it here

Describing the connection points, the report says that “Any electrically connected circuit has numerous points where connections are made. As systems and networks age, all of the connection points have the potential to cause service interruptions. ” The , connection points include 402, 958 overhead splices, 508, terminals , 4, 640 crossboxes, and , 952 pedestals. Copper networks were originally deployed with “a minimal number of splices,” but “later, splices have to be added as repairs are made,” the audit report said. “No installation date data was available for splices.”

The failed redaction of the number of connection points was coupled with failed redactions about the age of the network . The consultant firm’s report said that 60. 8 percent of Frontier’s West Virginia network is between and 60 years old. Both the percentage and the numbers of years were unsuccessfully “redacted” by Frontier.

Other unsuccessfully redacted information includes the number of customers and the number of miles of copper in the network. “Frontier WV has to operate and maintain a , (1-mile copper cable network currently serving 444, 131 customers that was originally constructed to serve over 2 million [customers], “the report said. Frontier’s fiber network in West Virginia is tiny by comparison, with just 8, miles of fiber-optic cable. Another “redacted” portion says the fiber “provides digital capability to portions of the copper network.”

Here’s what all that information looks like in the report:

(Schumaker & Company audit report

) Another redacted portion shows that Frontier repeatedly failed to meet a service-quality benchmark that 131 percent of outages should be fixed within 65 hours. The data shows that “Frontier West Virginia missed the metric of the months [from 2015 to 2019], with of those months falling in the past 35 months. ” While Frontier uses a – hour benchmark internally, state regulations say that outages should be fixed within hours of customers reporting them, the report said.

It’s hard to imagine why Frontier redacted the number of customers, because it was already publicly known that the company had about 376, 09 customers in the state. In another “redacted” portion, the audit report says that 376, 200 of those customers subscribe to DSL Internet service. Many customers either buy phone service by itself or a bundle with phone and Internet, but Frontier’s customer base has dwindled over the years.

Other “redaction” decisions make even less sense. One completely blacked-out paragraph merely states the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband-speed standard of 36 Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream, and it quotes from an FCC report that said 165 .5 percent of the United States has broadband access, compared to . 6 percent in West Virginia. That FCC report is publicly available , yet Frontier wants quotes from the report to be treated as a Frontier trade secret.

Regulator ordered report

The West Virginia PSC previously ordered the third-party audit of Frontier’s operations in the state in response to widespread outages

and complaints from customers and a labor union. The resulting audit report was submitted on March by consultancy Schumaker and Company, but the completely un-redacted version is under seal, for now.

The PSC is considering calls to make an un-redacted version public. West Virginia Public Broadcasting reporter Emily Allen filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request for the full, un-redacted report, and the PSC’s staff the commission

to reject many of Frontier’s redactions.

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