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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    AzureSky (profile), Apr 18th, 2012 @ 2:46pm

    guess they should have implemented data caps....that would fix everything....

    according to Derek Kerton its smart to under engineer your network such that you cant provide the speeds you promise apron sale, its network engineering 101 or something......

    I cant wait to see him defending Verizon in this topic, it should be a riot.

     

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      AzureSky (profile), Apr 18th, 2012 @ 2:51pm

      Re:

      note: the above is sarcasm incast your sarcasm detectors broken.

      this isnt uncommon anywhere in this country, and i doubt it will even make it to court, after all, this is the incorporated states of america, the corporation will just pay the lawyers to make it go away.

       

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    silverscarcat (profile), Apr 18th, 2012 @ 2:51pm

    So...

    Is 65.0 Mpbs a good rate?

     

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    GMacGuffin (profile), Apr 18th, 2012 @ 2:51pm

    99-cent store in my hood that was razed years ago had the best, totally-not-misleading slogan painted huge:

    "Nothing over $.99 and up"

     

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    Richard, Apr 18th, 2012 @ 2:52pm

    Definition of 'Up To' - "We once saw this speed in a lab test under optimal conditions"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2012 @ 3:26pm

    Hah, AT&T lies

    "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."

    Funny, when I was having problems with my Sonic.net ADSL a year or so ago, I had an AT&T rep try to tell me the exact same thing. Which is amusing because everything was rock solid up to a certain point, and then it just went to shit and nothing would sync.

    Long story short, it turned out to be a hardware glitch in AT&T's DSLAM, and after rebooting the "card" my circuit was attached to, all was well again.

    I've come to the conclusion that AT&T will say just about anything to avoid having to fix their infrastructure sometimes.

     

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      AzureSky (profile), Apr 18th, 2012 @ 6:22pm

      Re: Hah, AT&T lies

      but according to Derek Kerton they spend millions or billions a year upgrading and maintaining their infrastructure.....

      and their under engineering their network is a good thing and smart move on their part.....i mean if they sell you 5mbit and can only give you 768k.....

      having delt with att and some others, this is sad to say, but im glad im on comcast here, at least they are reliable around here, call and they get somebody out ASAP and they dont blame our end EVER :D

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2012 @ 8:15am

        Re: Re: Hah, AT&T lies

        Sad to say this, but Comcast is AT&T. The two companies merged back in 2002/2003, with the Comcast people taking over all the cable/cable internet businesses.
        http://www.pbs.org/newshour/media/media_watch/july-dec02/fcc_11-14.html

         

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          AzureSky (profile), Apr 19th, 2012 @ 3:01pm

          Re: Re: Re: Hah, AT&T lies

          comcast bought out @home(att) they then effectively scrapped the ATT setup (wins based) and went to registering modems by mac, that fixed some issues, but they also have FAR better support both on the phone and in person then @home ever had.

          Comcast IS NOT ATT, but they did buy @home from ATT, now days ATT offers DSL and Fiber in various places and their support and service are questionable at best...

           

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      AzureSky (profile), Apr 18th, 2012 @ 6:22pm

      Re: Hah, AT&T lies

      but according to Derek Kerton they spend millions or billions a year upgrading and maintaining their infrastructure.....

      and their under engineering their network is a good thing and smart move on their part.....i mean if they sell you 5mbit and can only give you 768k.....

      having delt with att and some others, this is sad to say, but im glad im on comcast here, at least they are reliable around here, call and they get somebody out ASAP and they dont blame our end EVER :D

       

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Apr 18th, 2012 @ 3:36pm

    Stupid Verizon (or DSL providers in general)

    One would think that Verizon would send out a tech to test the lines when someone first signs up. This would be best for Verizon as they could add it to the sign up fees, test to the house (not the internal wiring), and have plausible dependability for lawsuits like this. The way they do it now they look really bad, open themselves up to a lawsuit like this, and have to send out a support tech free of charge.

     

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    bloodypeasant (profile), Apr 18th, 2012 @ 3:47pm

    Verizon is amazing...

    I've been trying for some time to get caller id on my phone line. I have DSL and was supposed to get caller id but they screwed it up. That was well over a year ago. Every single time I call them to try to get the caller id enabled they send out a technician to install FIOS.

    I've told them that I don't want fios, that I want my caller id enabled and yet they still send out a technician to install fios.

    The company is almost impossible to contact these days and so I've left huge notes on my front door stating, "I DO NOT WANT FIOS! I AM TRYING TO GET CALLER ID! DO NOT INSTALL FIOS!"

    If I call them then I get a response saying I need to call another department and so forth and get shuttled all over the place. Using their virtually unnavigable website guarantees a visit from a fios technician.

    This company really exemplifies the very worst of what american business has become.

    Even their DSL performance is pathetic. Thursdays thru Mondays and on any holiday I get dial up speeds, at best.

    I suspect a lot of people who download 'pirated' material thru verizon will never know if verizon is punishing them by cutting back on their transfer speeds.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2012 @ 4:21pm

      Re: Verizon is amazing...

      I have no defense for Verizon's customer service (or lack there of), I have had some less than satisfactory experience with them. Still having FIOS at our branch office where it is available, I wish it was available in the area that I live. I would have it in my home in a heartbeat, and can not understand why someone would op for DSL when the FIOS was available.

       

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      harbingerofdoom (profile), Apr 18th, 2012 @ 4:24pm

      Re: Verizon is amazing...

      what i dont understand is why you wouldnt want fios as opposed to DSL....

       

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        Theoden, Apr 18th, 2012 @ 5:36pm

        Re: Re: Verizon is amazing...

        On Long Island it is a farce to switch to FIOS. The local cable company is able to get service restored in a matter of hours. The FIOS lines were out for over a week after the last major storm to hit the area.

        Every time I get a call asking me to switch to FIOS I ask for the SLA in writing that says I will have the service restored in the same time I can get the cable restored. Every time, the sales dweeb promises that, and then can never deliver.

        I love yanking their chain!

         

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        abc gum, Apr 19th, 2012 @ 4:33am

        Re: Re: Verizon is amazing...

        Maybe it is because of the copper cutting protocol, or possibly the many fires?

         

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    Coincidental, Apr 18th, 2012 @ 4:12pm

    Verizon is *really* amazing

    I just returned from visiting someone in Dallas, who switched from Time Warner Cable to FIOS three or four months ago (voice and data only). They stream Netflix through a Wii. They like to watch shows like The League that don't have laugh tracks or commercials. TWC dropped the connection from 3 - 45 seconds, "reloaded", then resumed. Very annoying. Verizon does the same thing. I did some troubleshooting to no avail. FIOS is pathetic, no better than Clear.

     

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      harbingerofdoom (profile), Apr 18th, 2012 @ 4:30pm

      Re: Verizon is *really* amazing

      FIOS is pathetic, no better than Clear.

      um.... how about no? would no work for you?


      you may have had a problem with that specific connection or there may have been something going on even in the neighborhood. but fiber better than wireless?? c'mon...

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2012 @ 4:33pm

      Re: Verizon is *really* amazing

      ... They had TWC and FiOS at the same time? Are you saying that TWC == FiOS == Clear?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2012 @ 4:31pm

    I had a similar (in that it was painful to get Frontier to understand) situation. Frontier adverts up to 12Mbps for 34.99/mo, not all speeds available in all areas. So, after finally finding a sales rep that said they could provide access (previous tenants had frontier) they offered the 6Mbps speed level. Great. A month or two later inquire if they're going to upgrade their lines/fiber etc, I am informed that I only have a 3Mbps service and would have to pay $65/mo for the 6Mbps service. That's where I got confused, but they eventually backed down, pay $10/mo more but no where near the ~$30/mo they wanted. BTW, they're the only provider to my home, Comcast won't build down the street to me (~.3 miles, crossing 11 homes), 3g/4g/Wimax providers say they won't service where I live.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2012 @ 4:38pm

    I've called my current DSL provider only to be told that they don't have service at my address despite being an active customer.

    Bridging the modem was a PITA, too.

    Sadly the only reason I have DSL is my previous cable Internet went down, probably because my neighbours accidentally severed the line to me. I was told it would take a month to fix (which infuriated me because I consider it more or less a utility). Needless to say after a month was up it was still not fixed, and they told me it would take another month because they 'needed permits from the city.' So I yelled at them, cancelled service, and got DSL. (Only 2 options outside of dialup.)

    The state of Internet access in America is atrocious.

    If congress wanted to actually do something useful they'd do something to either increase competition or make Internet a utility.

     

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      abc gum, Apr 19th, 2012 @ 4:48am

      Re:

      "If congress wanted to actually do something useful they'd do something to either increase competition or make Internet a utility."

      Congress will continue to do what is in their own self interest, that being censoring the internet. Why would a bunch of greedy millionaires do anything worthwhile for the plebs? The internet is a thorn in the sides of the elite and they are getting upset about the ease of communication amongst the working class. You can see the fear in their eyes, sort of a crazed maniacal twitch.

       

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    Rekrul, Apr 18th, 2012 @ 4:40pm

    I think that as long as ISPs are allowed to advertise "up to" speeds, their customers should be allowed to pay "up to" the set price each month.

     

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    marvin nubwaxer, Apr 18th, 2012 @ 8:43pm

    broadband speed

    you're talking about mobile. my cable comcast gives me top speeds over what i pay for

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2012 @ 1:15am

    I've been complaining about this advertising gimmick, and a similar one that's even worse, for up to 80 years or more.

     

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    Malor, Apr 19th, 2012 @ 2:25am

    Much of the problem with DSL provisioning is that the lines they're running over are often in terrible shape. They were often strung poorly, inadequately maintained, or have been jacked around by generations of technicians that have come and gone. They can't tell you for sure what speed you'll get, because they don't know the quality of the copper pair you'll end up being assigned. If you get a good pair, you may get good speed. If not, it can suck.

    There can also be quite substantial inaccuracies in their length-to-customer figures. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but they can be off by a large margin. The databases for this stuff are very poor, and since pretty much all competition was shut down in the telecom space, there's absolutely no incentive to improve it at all.

    I'm pretty amazed at the guy upthread who doesn't want FIOS. Wow, is that ever weird.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 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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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2012 @ 10:15pm

    I'm not impressed at all that the Verizon rep told you different things about DSL availability when she was looking at another computer. I'd call that slightly more consistency than I would expect from AT&T on the matter.

    A little background. At the time, (Dec. 2008 - Jan. 2009) I was an AT&T apologist. I was mainly focused on wireless service, but I was more than willing to try their DSL. So I jumped through several hoops at a wireless store one day, getting new DSL service attached to my wireless bill.

    It was to be installed by a technician a week later, and I was told I would need merely to plug in my (free!) modem and complete a short self-install procedure on my end.

    Awesome. I had already moved in to my new place, but there were several open wi-fi networks in the neighborhood, so I was not without a connection.

    A week later, I plugged in my modem and initiated the process, only to find that it did not work. I spent almost two hours on the phone, before I learned what the problem was. The sales drone had mistakenly entered my service order twice, and three days later when someone in another department caught it, instead of (a) calling to confirm or (b) canceling one of the orders, they canceled both and did nothing to inform me. No one had come out to set up my service at all.

    So I got one of the orders reinstated and I was told a technician would get everything lined out two days later.

    Two days later, I initiated the self-install process and got the same result as before. I spent an hour and a half on the phone with customer service representatives who knew NOTHING before I finally got transferred to the nicest, most knowledgeable CS representative I've ever spoken to - she said she was in the Philippines - who told me the tech who came to set up my line reported back that the location needed an additional line added to add DSL and that he did not have the equipment to do so. I got another appointment scheduled for three days later. I was beginning to get irritated.

    But I waited the three days. And I got a fantastic installer who told me he had no idea why he was summoned, because when he looked at our line, everything was already in order when he got there. There was nothing additional for him to do, except turn it on.

    And turn it on he did. The service worked quickly and reliably for three weeks, when I got an automated phone call from AT&T telling me that "location is unsuitable for DSL service" and that my order will be cancelled. No number to call. Nowhere to follow up. Nothing. And this after I was obviously using the service! After several attempts, no one at AT&T could get my service turned back on.

    So two days later, the cable company hooked up their service giving me twice the speed at the same price. I was so fed up with AT&T's customer service that I not only canceled my wireless and landline services, but I went and GOT A JOB at Sprint.

    For the next three months, I got an automated call every Wednesday from AT&T's credit department that was vague and ominous. Every time I called the number it gave, the representatives said that they were familiar with the call, but that my account could not be found anywhere.

    In short, AT&T is, to me, the worst company in America, and I've spent the last 3 years on a personal mission to take away their customers. From every division. And I tell this story to everyone who dares to tell me they like anything AT&T does.

     

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    Nick Burns (profile), Apr 21st, 2012 @ 10:10pm

    Wow! Talk about deja vu! This has happened to me too. I tried to upgrade from Verizon's low end to their top tier of 7Mbps for $40, only to have rotten to no internet connection. Verizon then had a tech come out to look at the line and the first thing out of his mouth was that I was simply too far (19,000ft) and to get the 7Mbps I needed to be within 7,000ft.
    He checked the line and it was only getting about 2Mbps and said the reason the modem keeps dropping is because the office was trying to push too much info down the line. He said he would go up and down the block to check and/or improve the line. He came back about 1/2 hour later to check the line and was only able to improve it to 2.5Mbps. He told me they should never have sold me the service because of the distance. He told me FIOS was not available in my area (Verizon stopped the rollout due to a dispute with the city) and that I could "try" the 2nd tier, but feared it may still be too much. I did try that, but the connection was still too flaky.
    He said my only other choice was to try TimeWarner Cable (TWC). I could get 15Mbps for the same price as Verizon's 7Mbps. So I called Verizon to go back to the low tier, just so I can get some connection.
    I then ordered TWC and I'm now hitting between 15-30Mbps. Pretty sweet. We're keeping Verizon for a bit while we get our email accounts fully switched to GMail.
    The only other thing I have to clear up now is the charge for the modem(s) (yes they sent 2, one regular and one wireless/router/modem). I was told these were being sent out as no charge, so I now have that dispute to contend with.
    My ordeal only lasted about a week before switching to TWC, so, although they sold me a service I technically can't receive, I was able to get the credits for the service change.
    Now to deal with those modem charges.

     

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    wispa Limited, Apr 22nd, 2012 @ 6:34am

    Not just in the US

    The 'upto' trend is misleading. In the UK we have Ofcom that are supposed to be responsible for regulating the comms industry, but have summarily failed to do so, and have ignored approaching 700 people who have emailed them directly to ask them for assistance using
    http://wispa.it/upto-charge-upto-service/
    It isn't that an upto service shouldn't be allowed, it is that this should not be permitted to allow users to think that they could get something different to what they actually receive.
    We are determined to put an end to this practice in the UK, or have Ofcom replaced with an effective regulator.
    Richard Brown
    COO

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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