The Federal Trade Commission today said it “has moved to prevent internet service provider Frontier Communications from lying to consumers and charging them for high internet speeds it can’t deliver.”
border was sued by the FTC in May 2021, and on Thursday it agreed to a settlement with the FTC and prosecutors in Los Angeles County and Riverside County, representing the people of California. Frontier must pay California $8.5 million “for investigation and litigation costs” and an additional $250,000 to be distributed to Frontier customers harmed by Frontier’s alleged actions.
Frontier also needs to make changes, such as letting customers cancel the service free of charge and “discount”[ing] the accounts of California customers who have not been notified that they are receiving DSL service that is much slower than the highest advertised speed,” the FTC said.
“Frontier has lied about its speeds and ripped off customers by charging high-speed prices for slow service,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Today’s proposed order requires Frontier to back up its high-speed claims. It also arms customers lured by Frontier’s lies with free, easy options to drop their slow service.”
The settlement is pending the approval of a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The FTC approved the proposed order in a 4-0 vote. Frontier has neither admitted nor denied the allegations of the lawsuit.
The FTC’s complaint “contains baseless allegations and disregards important facts,” Frontier said today that it “settled the lawsuit in good faith to put it behind us so we could focus on our business.”
Slow, inconsistent DSL
The lawsuit concerns Frontier’s claims about its DSL Internet service, which is much slower than fiber-to-the-home. DSL speeds also vary significantly by location, depending on how close a customer’s home is to the provider infrastructure†
The FTC said the proposed order “will require Frontier to substantiate its claims about per-customer internet speed before new and complaining customers and notify customers when it is unable to do so; require Frontier to Enables it to deliver the Internet service Speeds up advertising before signing up, upgrading, or billing new customers; [and] prohibit Frontier from signing up new customers for its DSL Internet service in areas where the large number of users sharing the same network equipment causes congestion, resulting in slower Internet service.”
In addition, Frontier must “notify existing customers who are receiving DSL Internet services at speeds below advertised and allow customers to change or cancel their service free of charge.”
While customers will get some financial help and flexibility, many are still stuck in areas where Frontier DSL is the only choice. “Many of Frontier’s DSL service subscribers are located in rural areas where they have only one or very limited choice of Internet service,” the FTC said.
The settlement also says Frontier must deploy fiber-to-the-home service to 60,000 homes in California within four years. That’s in addition to Frontier’s previous commitment to install fiber in 350,000 California homes and businesses by the end of 2026, as part of a bankruptcy settlement. The new settlement also specifies that the 60,000 homes must be in addition to any stakes made with funding from the Federal Communications Commission or from a state or local government grant.