back to article FTC says Frontier lied about its internet speeds amid $8.5m settlement

The FTC has settled a case in which Frontier Communications was accused of charging high prices for under-delivered internet connectivity. The US telecommunications giant has promised to be clearer with subscribers on connection speeds, and will cough up more than $8.5 million, or less than a day in annual profit, to end the …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Up to...

    It's been the bane of IP advertising for years.

    1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: Up to...

      Yeah. You should be able to pay "up to" the advertised price.

      1. quxinot

        Re: Up to...

        That is an amazing way to handle it. Pro-rate that payment when the speed does not hit advertised targets.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Up to...

      with xDSL links that's inevitable because the technology is designed exactly that way. And you'll know the real achievable speed only after you're connected, albeit an estimate can be done on the cable length, but there are other issues (especially for VDSL) like dead branches and interference from nearer twisted pairs that cannot be easily know and estimated. Moreover because of lines interference, speed can degrade over time, as more customers are added.

      Here ISPs do provide the expected max speed based on cable length, and won't connect houses beyond a given length. There is also a minimum lawful speed, below which one can close the contract without fees - but that is no help when you have no alternatives.

      Probably pricing based on speed tiers could be a solution for customers, but on the other hand it may mean they won't get any offering, unless other provisions are in place to ensure they get coverage.

      In the end the reality is xDSL is a stopgap technology with many known issues - and it has to be superseded by more performant technologies over longer links - but that requires long-term infrastructure investments, which doesn't go well along quarterly results. Meanwhile marketing will come up with new lies to sell them and postpone those investments.

      1. Mike 16

        Dead Branches et al.

        You forgot the squirrels.

  2. David 132 Silver badge
    Happy

    I had Frontier service, and TBH was perfectly happy

    At my last house, my only option was DSL service from Frontier. I have to be honest, I had no complaints about them at all. I was sold 25/2 service and that's pretty close to what I got, within the normal fudge factor of DSL. I used to get a pretty consistent 20-22Mbps down and maybe 1.5-1.8 upstream. On at least 3 occasions I lost service - DSL in rural Oregon being what it is - and their tech support was always knowledgeable, quick, friendly and efficient (none of that "have you tried rebooting?" reading-from-a-script BS). Way better than my experiences with BT OpenRetch when I was in the UK.

    Compared to what I'm forced to use now - 20/4 service over a microwave relay link at $150/month - I would be delighted to go back to Frontier.

    Now, I'm not denying or excusing what they've been accused of here. But purely on the basis of my personal anecdata™, I'd hesitate to put them in the same League Of Utter Evil Bastardry as, say, Comcast or AT&T, both of which have proudly been voted "Satan's Favorite Communications Company" for pretty much the last fifteen+ years in a row.

    1. Down not across

      Re: I had Frontier service, and TBH was perfectly happy

      Verizon did flog all/most of their copper wireline to Frontier. I wonder if there is any correlation.

      1. IvyKing

        Re: I had Frontier service, and TBH was perfectly happy

        IIRC, the copper wireline Verizon transferred to Frontier was mostly the former GTE service, as opposed to te Bell Atlantic service. I suspect that Verizon also transferred a fair amount of debt to Frontier as well with the expectation that the debt would be canceled in Frontier's almost inevitable bankruptcy.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I had Frontier service, and TBH was perfectly happy

      Upvoted purely for "anecdata™", I'm having that :-)

      M.

  3. raving angry loony
    Mushroom

    Another fraud...

    ... another company that probably paid less in fines than the profits they made by committing that fraud. Meanwhile, the *people* who committed the fraud just keep going it because nothing, at all, happens to them. Other than maybe getting bonuses for exceeding sales quotas.

    Then folks keep wondering why they keep doing it?

    1. binary
      Unhappy

      Re: Another fraud...

      Good point.

      AT&T ripped me off the same way. I was paying for 20 Mbs and was getting only 3 Mbs. It's sad that these below-par companies got away with such scam for so long.

  4. johnfbw

    Lawyers get 8.5m

    Customers who paid for something not delivered 0.25m. shareholders and managers don't admit blame and walk off Scott free

  5. Falmari Silver badge
    Mushroom

    $250,000 to customers

    “according to the FTC, and an extra $250,000 to customers who specifically suffered from sub-par broadband, with any spare money going to the Consumer Protection Prosecution Trust Fund.”

    Why has the court can stipulate this as part of the settlement? The court should have ordered Frontier to return all the monies it defrauded from its customers. By all monies I mean that a customer that has been sold “sub-par broadband” should have all the payments they made for that broadband returned to them by Frontier.

    That would mean the company has not profited from its fraud. The “$8.5 million "in civil penalties and costs” is the punishment. But more importantly the victims of the fraud have had what was taken from them returned.

    Edit: Monies should include interest.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: $250,000 to customers

      Ideally it would be prorated - if your internet speed was 10% of what you paid for, you get 90% back. With interest. No more "one day's profit" kind of fines!

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    who is surprised?

    Those who have lived under a rock for 30 years? I once thought about going into marketing... I was once a salesman too! Never again.

  7. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge
    Holmes

    The ISPs in my country (central Europe) publish, although sometimes deeply buried within their webpages, a document stating maximum, normal and minimum speeds for their internet services. Turns out that 100 MBit aren't a 100 MBit after all.

    Maybe we need another conversion of the SI prefixes for Bits?

    So besides the bases of 1000 and 1024 we need another prefix based on as-advertised.

    I suspect that this is the result of some EU regulation forcing them to be honest about the true speeds, even if this is done only in hush-hush small print in some dark corner of their webpages.

  8. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Is price a factor?

    To say a company is charging "high prices" for something isn't that meaningful. Yes, if you are buying by the kg, you can calculate a price per kilo, but when you agree to a contract for a service at a price, it comes down to whether you are getting what you contracted for or not. Location can dictate what you pay for something. A corner shop in Silicon Valley is paying solid gold prices for every square foot so a bag of crisps is going to be that much more expensive. If Frontier is the only game in town, expect to pay more for your internet service.

    I would expect that any agreement with a specified speed should be provided. If they can't give you a high speed, they should tell you and charge a lower price. Again, if they are the only service in the area, you wind up paying what they ask or do without. If they don't give you what they said you'd be getting, they are in violation of the contract they foisted on you in the first place and should have to pay.

    To say a company should charge 10% of the price for 10% of the speed doesn't make sense. What speed is the benchmark? What's the baseline cost of providing service exclusive of bandwidth?

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