Verizon, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable are facing questions from the New York Attorney General about whether they are duping consumers by delivering slower-than-advertised broadband service.
"This Office is concerned that for reasons substantially within Cablevision’s control, consumers may not be experiencing the speeds advertised," senior enforcement counsel Tim Wu writes to Cablevision in a letter sent Friday.
Wu, who coined the phrase "net neutrality," sent similar letters to Verizon and Time Warner.
Wu adds that the Attorney General is concerned that the companies aren't delivering "proportional increases" in speed to consumers who pay extra for premium service tiers.
The Internet service providers all tell MediaPost that they will cooperate with the Attorney General's office, and that they deliver the speeds they promise.
The letters appear to be the first public move by Wu since he was lured to the Attorney General's office last month. A prominent open Internet advocate, Wu made broadband access a central focus of his recent run for New York Lieutenant Governor.
In his letters, Wu flags the recent disputes about how the Internet service providers handle traffic as it "interconnects" between their networks and those operated by backbone companies, like Level 3 or Cogent.
"We are specifically concerned about disruptions to the consumer experience caused by interconnection disputes, and also the possibility that interconnection arrangements may in some instances render irrelevant any benefit of paying for a 'premium' option," Wu writes.
The letters ask for detailed information the companies' interconnection agreements, as well as documents about complaints by customers about their broadband speeds.
Wu is hardly the first one to raise questions about how interconnection deals affect consumers. Last year, many Netflix subscribers -- including Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler -- experienced problems when trying to stream videos from the service.
Last year, Netflix was able to stem the complaints by forging "peering" deals with Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon. Those deals allow the streaming video company to interconnect directly with the broadband providers' networks.
The precise terms were never publicly revealed, but the deals generally call for Netflix to pay extra fees to ISPs in order to connect directly with their servers, as opposed to sending data through an intermediary like Cogent or Level 3.
Since then, the Federal Communications Commission passed net neutrality rules that could affect interconnection disputes in the future. The new regulations prohibit broadband providers from engaging in activity that hinders consumers from accessing content.
But the net neutrality rules might not hold up in court, in which case the FCC wouldn't be in any position to police the disputes.
Even if that happens, however, regulators like the New York Attorney General still could take action if broadband providers violate state consumer protection laws. Wu raises that prospect in his letters.
"The Attorney General has the authority to commence legal action to enjoin deceptive, fraudulent or illegal business practices, and to obtain restitution, penalties and costs whenever a business is engaged in deception, fraud or illegality," Wu writes. "We are gathering information to enable us to make a determination of what action, if any, is warranted."
More than ever, as consumers have extremely limted choices for internet access, net neutrality is necessary. How stupid are these providers, which would like net neutrality to go away, to demonstrate in their throttling and limiting of speeds, the very necessity for it? You'd think they'd be smart enough to play nice in the short term!
Comcast is having a blast slowing down connections, laughing all the way to be allowed to control all media with no repercussions.