from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
With federal telecom oversight both intentionally gridlocked and crippled courtesy of the Trump era, the closest telecom monopolies get to seeing accountability are often state attorneys general.
Case in point: telecom giants routinely sell service speeds that they can’t actually deliver across all fifty states. But only in a handful of states where AGs actually care about broadband consumers getting ripped off do you see any meaningful action. Such as last week in Connecticut, where state AG William Tong stated he’d be launching an investigation into cable giant Altice, which sells service under the Optimum Brand.
According to Tong, Altice/Optimum routinely sells broadband service tier speeds its network often can’t actually deliver:
“Our office has reviewed hundreds of complaints from Optimum cable internet customers regarding slow speeds, hidden fees, and poor customer support. Our investigation seeks comprehensive records dating back to January 2017 to determine exactly what Altice Optimum knew and what they were doing to deliver the internet speeds and service they promised. If our investigation finds that Optimum violated Connecticut law, we will not hesitate to hold them accountable,”
France-based Altice bought Optimum several years ago promising to be significantly better than Optimum. Instead the company’s owners found that limited competition and limited regulatory oversight lets you abuse customers usually without meaningful penalty.
CT’s AG is also investigating Altice for another common tactic in the broadband industry: socking you with bullshit, below the line fees to jack up your advertised rate. The company’s monthly $3.50 “Network Enhancement Fee,” basically allows the company to break out a cost of providing service and hide it below the line, effectively letting it falsely advertise a lower rate.
For every Connecticut AG who actually cares about this stuff (though even here, this will likely end with a wrist slap at best), there’s two or three states that simply couldn’t care less that U.S. broadband subscribers are getting ripped off. With neither regulatory or competitive pressure to hold big ISPs accountable, they can pretty much do whatever they’d like.
And what they’d like is to overcharge you for substandard service far slower and far more expensive than the actual, advertised price. With the entirety of DC and press policy attention fixated exclusively on Big Tech, it’s a great time to be a predatory telecom monopoly, since the very worst threat you face is a flimsy, occasional fine from a state AG.
Filed Under: attorney general, broadband, cable, connecticut, consumer protection, hidden fees, high speed internet, telecom, truth in advertising
Companies: altice, optimum