Authorities demand major US internet companies prove their speed claims

27 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AG to probe slow Internet providers’ ‘misleading’ ads.

A group of major US internet providers have been told to prove their “fast lanes” and premium services are any quicker than ordinary internet access. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched an investigation into whether Internet service providers Verizon, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision are misleading customers with slower-than-advertised speeds. “This office is concerned that, for reasons substantially within Verizon’s control, consumers may not be experiencing the speeds advertised,” Tim Wu, a senior enforcement counsel in the AG’s office, wrote in an Oct. 23 letter to the company.Three major broadband providers in New York have been asked by the state’s attorney general to prove that their Internet connection speeds are as fast as they claim.

New York officials are investigating some of the nation’s biggest Internet providers over claims that customers aren’t getting the Internet speeds they’ve paid for. The office of New York’s attorney general has written to Time Warner, Verizon and Cablevision raising concerns that subscribers might not be getting the speeds advertised. In letters to the state’s three major Internet providers, Schneiderman’s office has asked them to validate claims their customers are getting the access speeds promised, especially for premium services. Schneiderman’s investigation comes little more than a year after the Federal Communications Commission began probing ISPs over their download speeds. Wu pointedly addresses premium packages offered by all three companies: Verizon’s FIOS program, Time Warner Cable’s “Extreme” and “Ultimate” offerings, and Cablevision’s “Optimum Online Ultra” program.

The three Internet providers vowed to cooperate with the probe, and all said in statements Monday that they were confident in the speeds they provide to end-users. Wu wrote that the discrepancy between actual speeds and those advertised may be wide enough apart to “render the advertising deceptive.” He also said congestion at the handoff or “interconnection” point between third parties’ networks and those of the broadband companies may be slowing the end speeds consumers are receiving. “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,” wrote Mr. In Akamai’s ‘State of the Internet’ report for the first quarter of this year, the U.S. ranked 24th among countries for peak Internet connectivity speeds, behind nations such as Romania, Macao and Latvia. The office requested detailed information from each of the companies on their network management and advertising practices, including copies of all broadband customer complaints related to discrepancies between actual and advertised speeds and all “interconnection” agreements, formal and informal, that the companies have struck with third parties.

It also wants all disclosures to actual or potential customers about internet speeds since 2013; substantiation for specific speed claims; related customer complaints; and copies of internet interconnection agreements. Cablevision’s “Ultra 101” home broadband service, as Wu’s letter mentions, promises customers “that they may download a 3 MB song in 0.2 seconds.” The 150 Mbps FiOS Internet package is described as “great for 8 devices,” and pledges “faster speeds and less lag while you’re working or at home.” All three companies have released statements confirming their cooperation in the investigation and confidence in their listed speeds, said Reuters. Schneiderman’s office told Law Blog the basis for the probe comes from its own analysis, consumer complaints reviewed by the office and findings from Internet research group Measurement Lab.

After the attorney general’s review of responses and documents, company officials would be invited in to discuss their broadband marketing practices and services, Wu wrote. Their response would seemingly back up the Federal Communication Commission’s 2013 ‘Measuring Broadband America’ report that found ISPs, on average, delivered 96% of advertised speeds during peak weekday consumer usage hours. If there isn’t enough capacity at that point, known as the point of interconnection, then consumers could experience delays as Netflix videos and other content struggle to make it into a provider’s systems. Cablevision told the Associated Press that it would be happy to provide information to the attorney general and its Optimum Online service “consistently surpasses advertised broadband speeds, including in FCC and internal tests”. Wu is best known for popularizing the term “net neutrality” — the idea that all Internet traffic should be treated equally — and championing regulations imposing it.

And that’s a bottleneck they control and can substantially affect the speeds the consumer experiences.” Netflix subscribers may remember their outrage when a flood of video traffic last year got clogged up at the edge of networks belonging to Comcast, Verizon and other Internet providers.

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