The Office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched inquiries into whether Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Verizon are failing to deliver advertised broadband speeds.
Tim Wu, senior enforcement counsel who is on leave from his job as a professor with Columbia Law School, raised concerns in letters to the three Internet service providers that consumers are not getting advertised speeds “for reasons substantially within” the companies’ control. The letters also expressed concerns that consumers paying for premium options may not be receiving “proportional increases in experienced speeds.”
“Our concerns can be placed in two groups. First, that the speeds made available over the last mile (between the home and cable headend) may deviate far enough from the speeds advertised to render the advertising deceptive,” Wu, who teaches communications law and policy, wrote in an Oct. 23 letter to Cablevision. “Second, that the impact of technical and business decisions made at the point of interconnection between Cablevision and other networks may so affect end-to-end throughput that the speeds are not what was promised. In this respect, we are specifically concerned about disruptions to the consumer experience caused by interconnection disputes, and also the possibility that interconnection arrangements may in some instances render irrelevant any benefit of paying for a ‘premium’ option.”
The companies denied wrongdoing.
“Optimum Online consistently surpasses advertised broadband speeds, including in FCC and internal tests,” Janet Meahan, a Cablevision spokesperson, wrote in an email to Channel Partners. “We are happy to provide any necessary performance information to the Attorney General as we do to our customers.”
Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden told Channel Partners: “Verizon is confident in the robust and reliable Internet speeds it delivers to subscribers. We look forward to working cooperatively with the Attorney General’s office.” In an email to Channel Partners, a Time Warner Cable spokesperson, Bobby Amirshahi, expressed a similar sentiment.
The ISPs find themselves under investigation by one of the largest and most aggressive state attorney-general offices, which boasts a staff of around 1,700 employees and 700 lawyers. Schneiderman has investigated myriad trades ranging from the finance and telecom sectors to the tobacco and dietary supplement industries.
Wu reminded the Internet companies that his office has authority under New York law to commence a legal action to prohibit deceptive, fraudulent or illegal business practices, and obtain costs, penalties and restitution when a business in engaged in such unlawful behavior.
The letters requested various information from the ISPs, including disclosures to consumers regarding actual or expected Internet speeds, and substantiation or proof for claims that customers will experience the advertised speeds.
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