New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced a lawsuit against Charter Communications and Spectrum, formerly known as Time Warner Cable, alleging they deliberately promised Internet speeds they could not deliver.
The complaint alleges that since January 2012 Spectrum-TWC’s marketing promised subscribers who signed up for its Internet service that they would get a “fast, reliable connection” to the Internet from anywhere in their home.
But after a 16-month investigation – which included reviewing internal corporate communications and hundreds of thousands of subscriber speed tests – the Attorney General’s Office says they found Spectrum-Time Warner subscribers were getting short-changed on both speed and reliability.
The suit alleges that subscribers’ wired internet speeds for the premium plan (100, 200, and 300 Mbps) were up to 70 percent slower than promised.
WiFi speeds were allegedly even slower, with some subscribers getting speeds that were more than 80 percent slower than what they had paid for.
As alleged in the complaint, Spectrum-TWC charged New Yorkers as much as $109.99 per month for premium plans that could not achieve speeds promised in their slower plans.
“The allegations in today’s lawsuit confirm what millions of New Yorkers have long suspected — Spectrum-Time Warner Cable has been ripping you off,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Today’s action seeks to bring much-needed relief to the millions of New Yorkers we allege have been getting cheated by Spectrum-Time Warner Cable for far too long. Even now, Spectrum-Time Warner Cable continues to offer Internet speeds that we found they cannot reliably deliver.”
The AG’s investigation alleges that Spectrum-TWC executives knew that the company’s hardware and network were incapable of achieving the speeds promised to subscribers, but nevertheless continued to make false representations about speed and reliability.
Specifically, the investigation alleges that Spectrum-TWC’s network was too overloaded to provide the advertised speeds, and that the company leased modems and routers that were incapable of providing the advertised speeds.
Investigators also say that while Spectrum-TWC earned billions of dollars in profits from selling its high-margin Internet service to millions of New York subscribers, it repeatedly declined to make capital investments necessary to improve its network or provide subscribers with the necessary hardware.
These investments would include substantially upgrading Spectrum-TWC’s network capability and replacing large numbers of deficient modems and wireless routers that subscribers currently pay Spectrum-TWC up to $10 per month to rent.
Scheiderman’s office alleges that Spectrum-TWC executives traded on the fact that most subscribers had a limited choice of Internet service providers, and that the technical complexity of deducing the problems would make it difficult for subscribers to pin the blame on the company.
The New York-based cable operator, originally known as Time Warner Cable, is currently rebranding itself as “Spectrum” throughout the state.
Spectrum-TWC provides Internet service to approximately 2.5 million households/subscribers in New York State, and the complaint covers the subscription plans of almost 5 million subscribers over the relevant period.
In its filing, the New York Attorney General’s Office is seeking restitution for New York consumers as well as appropriate injunctive and equitable relief to end Spectrum-TWC’s longstanding deceptive practices.
Charter communications, which merged with Time Warner Cable last year, released a statement saying in part:
“We are disappointed that the NY Attorney General chose to file this lawsuit regarding Time Warner Cable’s broadband speed advertisements that occurred prior to Charter’s merger.
“Charter made significant commitments to NY State as part of our merger with Time Warner Cable.”