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New York Launches Investigation into Major Internet Providers

New York Launches Investigation into Major Internet Providers

For a very long time, it has been something of a given in the United States that the download and upload speeds your internet service provider advertises to you are very far off from the actual speeds you experience while using the internet. The myriad reasons - or excuses, rather - range from limited bandwidth to accusations of a troubled computer to microwaves blocking wireless communications. Whatever the reason, the speeds promised are often cut in half if not more. And customers have lived with it because, in many cases, there is only the illusion of choice. Most people are stuck with one or two cable providers who sometimes collude on price and service - a virtual monopoly. In New York, they've had quite enough of that.

The Probe

Eric Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General, according to leaked documents is launching a probe into Cablevision Systems, Verizon Communications and Time Warner Cable, urging these cable heavyweights to turn over documents of their copy and advertising that have listed promised speeds to customers along with documents testing the speed of their internet services. Mr. Schneiderman frames it as a defense for New York consumers who he says have been "paying for one thing and getting another," consumers who "deserve the internet speeds they were promised."

Cablevision and Time Warner Cable, for their part, have both denied the Attorney General's accusations entirely, claiming that they "consistently surpass the internet speeds advertised." Verizon, on the other hand, has not commented on the probe.

Business Disputes

The investigation is reportedly focusing on supposed technical issues arising from business disputes in the contractual deals the internet service providers have with other networks over the exchange of data. These technical issues, then, might slow speeds down from the premium broadband speeds customers have paid for. The Measurement Lab Consortium studied this issue and found that interconnection disputes between these companies indeed does have a significant effect on broadband performance for consumers – and in some cases an extremely negative effect. That study by the Measurement Lab Consortium could have pushed the New York Attorney's office over the edge toward pursuing this probe.

More False Advertisements

Additionally, the investigation also raises some questions over internet speeds delivered by Cablevision and Time Warner Cable to their customers over "the last mile," a phrase defining the point where a telecommunication chain reaches a customer's house or apartment. Differentiating between speeds between the cable company's node and the last mile - which might be higher - vs the last mile and the customer's home could result in vastly different advertised speeds. Of course, a company would be incentivized to advertise the higher speed even though it is misleading and virtually inaccurate.

Throttling

Towards that end, internet service providers are also known to "throttle" - or slow - their customer's connections after a certain amount of data has been downloaded or uploaded. Thus, not only are consumers not actually receiving the advertised speeds after a certain amount of time, but the internet speed tests commonly found online would be fooled by this maneuver, spitting out confirmation that the given cable company is providing the advertised speeds when really this is not the case, as these speeds will eventually slow down after a short while.

A Free and Competitive Market

Mainly however, the New York Attorney General's probe seeks to, if not eliminate the burden pushed on the consumer by bottlenecked interconnections between cable companies who cannot come to business agreements, at least make sure that that burden is probably enumerated in advertisements. Consumers, then, can be educated on exactly what they've paying for and - if they have the choice - switch to a service that offers better speeds, better prices, or both. That is the essence of a free and competitive market.

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