On Wednesday, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman filed a lawsuit in the state’s Supreme Court against Time Warner Cable and its new parent company, Spectrum. The suit alleges that Spectrum-TWC conducted “a deliberate scheme to defraud and mislead New Yorkers by promising internet service that they knew they could not deliver.”
According to the suit, Spectrum-TWC promised — oh, and this is going to sound familiar for anyone who pays for broadband service in the entire United States — fast and reliable connections to New Yorkers. What they actually received was a bad cable internet connection, and even worse Wi-Fi.
In a press release accompanying the lawsuit, Schneiderman’s office says 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 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 could not achieve speeds promised in their slower plans.”
A lawsuit claiming that Wi-Fi speeds weren’t as fast as advertised is going to be tough going. Wi-Fi speeds are normally advertised as a theoretical or perfect-case maximum, but Wi-Fi is dramatically affected by factors like the building the router is in, how many devices are connected and how many other networks are set up nearby. Not even TWC has managed to bend the rules of physics, yet.
But the meat of the lawsuit — that Spectrum-TWC promised internet speeds it knew it would never be able to deliver — might actually go somewhere. The divide between promised speeds and the actual average has existed for about as long as broadband, and TWC has been sued over this exact issue before.
In a statement being issued to the media, Charter Communications said:
We are disappointed that the New York 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 New York State as part of our merger with Time Warner Cable in areas of network investment, broadband deployment and offerings, customer service and jobs.
In addition, Charter was among the highest rated broadband providers in the 2016 FCC Broadband Report. Charter has already made substantial investments in the interest of upgrading the Time Warner Cable systems and delivering the best possible experience to customers. We will continue to invest in our business and deliver the highest quality services to our customers while we defend against these allegations involving Time Warner Cable practices.
Schneiderman has been an active advocate for consumer rights thus far, and has recently gone after companies that leaked credit card information, Yahoo following its major security breach, and the President’s immigration executive order.
To try and further his case in this lawsuit, Schneiderman has created a website that encourages New York residents to take a speed test, compare the results to what they’re paying for, and send the results to his office.