Both Comcast And Verizon Agree To Pay Millions To Settle Overbilling Claims

from the but-you-can-trust-them dept

The big broadband players keep trying to tell us (and politicians and regulators) how good they are and how much we can trust them. Part of their whole pitch on killing net neutrality is that they'd never do anything to harm consumers. And yet... Just this week, the FTC has sued AT&T for lying to consumers about its "unlimited" plans (just weeks after AT&T was fined for "cramming" bills with unwanted charges). And in the last few days it's also come out that Comcast has agreed to pay $50 million to settle overbilling claims, and Verizon has agreed to pay $64 million to settle overbilling claims. And that was all by Wednesday. There's still more time this week.

If these were one-off situations, it would be one thing. But these companies have a fairly long history of shady billing practices, dreadful customer service and similar antics. This is part of the reason why some people are so concerned about the various merger attempts by these companies and why they're all actively seeking to block meaningful regulatory oversight. Bad practices like these can be limited when there's meaningful competition -- but even the FCC is now admitting we don't have that in the broadband market.

This is a real problem.

Broadband access has become such a key part of how we live and how we work. And it's controlled by companies that have a long and detailed history of treating their customers horribly, lumping on bogus fees, overbilling and providing horrible, horrible service. That's not a recipe for a strong and innovative future. It's suggesting some companies are focused on squeezing as much cash as possible out of consumers, while providing a bare minimum level of service and blocking any and all attempts at meaningful competition.

These latest overbilling settlements are just a few small examples of a much larger problem that has been going on for years. It's something that absolutely needs to change. And it won't change by making those companies more powerful and limiting the competition even more.


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Filed Under: broadband, consumers, overbilling, power
Companies: at&t, comcast, verizon


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  1. identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, 30 Oct 2014 @ 10:47am

    It's time to nationalize the infrastructure

    Clearly, the duopoly have absolutely no intention of providing world-class service at reasonable prices; heck, they have no intention of even providing mediocre service at inflated prices. What they do intend to do is extract as much money as possible, no matter what it costs customers, no matter the damage it does to the economy, no matter how badly it impacts innovation and competitiveness.

    So the heck with it: it's time to nationalize and run it as a shared, vital national resource -- not unlike the highway system. (Can you imagine what it'd be like to drive from Chicago to Pittsburgh if Verizon and Comcast operated the roads? Yipes.) Take over the existing physical plant. Create jobs laying fiber (it's been done before, and it worked, e.g. WPA, CCC). Provide a level playing field at some network layer -- maybe layer 2, maybe layer 3 -- and invite ISPs to compete for customers on that base, the same way that trucking companies compete for freight.

    Yes, this will suck, because it will be fraught with government bureaucracy and waste and all the other things that we've come to associate with huge public works projects. But I submit that it cannot possibly suck more than what we have right now, which is national network service that is embarrassingly slow, unreliable, and increasingly manipulated. (See, for example, just in the last week, What is Comcast/Xfinity WiFi Code Injection Doing? and Verizons Perma-Cookie Is a Privacy-Killing Machine. Not to mention all the other crap they've done/are doing/will do.)

    The duopoly has had its chance to provide the nation with best-in-the-world broadband services. It has failed miserably for decades and it's actively trying to fail harder. We can't afford to have the nation where the Internet was invented become the place where it starved to death because of corporate greed.

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