Verizon Sued For Promising Faster Broadband Than It Could Deliver

from the up-to dept

Years ago, we used to joke about the prevalence of "up to" language in the marketing around any kind of broadband connection. You'd see claims of speeds that could be reached in huge letters, but right before that, in fine print, would be an "up to." So sign up now to get "up to" 3 Mb per second. Of course that means anything less than that qualifies. Hell, they could argue any top speed, and as long as they included the "up to," they could get away with it. Eventually there was some cracking down on that and some threats that such language was potentially misleading, and companies have been somewhat (but not totally) clearer in describing their speeds. But, when it comes to DSL, there are other problems as well, including the general limitations on speed based on how far you are from the central office (CO). For reasons that still escape me, DSL providers seem notoriously bad at being able to predict ahead of time just how far you really are and what kind of speeds you can get. In the past, I've had these arguments with my DSL provider -- even to the point where a few years ago, when I had terrible DSL (despite living in the middle of Silicon Valley), I actually had an AT&T rep tell me that the company never should have provisioned my DSL because I was simply "too far" from the CO.

Either way, this confusion over distance has resulted in a new lawsuit -- which is trying to become a class action lawsuit -- against Verizon in California for over-promising speeds. This isn't just about the "up to" speeds being marketed. In this case, a woman was convinced to upgrade her account from a 768k top speed account to a 1.5 Mb top speed account -- at $10 more per month -- only to find that her line could only handle the 768k, based on her distance from the CO. She then had a Verizon rep tell her she should downgrade her account, but the company was unwilling to reimburse her for the higher fees she paid on a level of service she couldn't technically get.

Whether or not this specific suit has merit, it does highlight just how confused the DSL providers often are, where each time you call or speak to a rep, you will get different info. In another situation that I once had, I called to sign up for DSL a few years ago, and the rep told me that I couldn't get it at my location. When I said I was surprised, she told me to wait as she tried it on her "other computer," and that one said I could get DSL. It seems that even the DSL providers don't seem to have very good or consistent information themselves, so it's little surprise that customers get conflicting reports -- some of which lead them to paying too much for services they can't actually use.

Filed Under: dsl, speed
Companies: at&t, verizon


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2012 @ 4:33am

    I worked for a major DSL provider years ago... when it was still a decent system to be using. That company eventually bought competitors and operated 2 networks. That's when the fun began.

    DSL needs to have "boosters" on the copper cable network, roughly every 4-5 miles (it differs based on technology and costs) because of signal loss. Phone cables aren't very good at preserving high-frequency data. But in big areas, they install more boosters, even if the 5 mile radius concept doesn't apply, just so they can deliver faster speeds.

    Now in theory, everyone gets their base speed (768k seems the norm now). But the closer you are to a booster or a booster farm, the faster speeds you get. That has nothing to do with geography but how their network was built around predictions of which residential area would require more and which wouldn't. You can usually notice a degradation in quality after a couple of miles.

    In practice, there's no real way to calculate how fast a given location will be, because the costs of testing possible scenarios (which booster will the signal go through, how much will it be re-amplified, etc) is too much for them to consider.

    So instead, they rely on distance tests. As long as you live in a big residential area, you should have decent speeds (assuming everything else is ok), but if you're a little bit further, you might not get advertised speeds.

    Said provider, however, used to make you sign an agreement that they might not be able to help you fix your speed issues if you're over the 4 mile radius limit, but they still offered the service.

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