HARTFORD — Prompted by repeated consumer complaints, state Attorney General William Tong launched an investigation Monday into slow internet speeds, poor technical responses and hidden charges at cable company Altice Optimum.
Under Connecticut’s unfair trade practices law, Tong will investigate nearly 500 consumer complaints over a period of several years.
One of the most common complaints is consumers protesting that they aren’t getting the fast internet speeds they paid for. Some consumers who signed up for 300 or 400 megabits per second found they consistently only got 120 megabits per second, Tong said. A customer on the 400-megabit plan said they were only getting 10 to 40 megabits per second, Tong said.
“We have received complaints from many consumers who have performed speed tests. These are people who are much more technically savvy than I am,” Tong said at a press conference in Hartford. “They found they were getting much lower speeds than they paid for. And when they call Optimum for help – if they can reach someone – their issues aren’t resolved.”
A longtime resident of Stamford, Tong said he was personally a customer of Altice Optimum, which has a large footprint in Fairfield County. Tong said the company has “not yet” responded regarding the investigation.
“It should come as no surprise that customers are upset,” Tong told reporters. “We’ve learned, as consumers, to put up with a certain amount of poor service from some of our cable companies because you call and you’re on hold and the call drops. Then the call is transferred and it is dropped. Many of us have personally had this experience, but it goes far beyond some of those constant complaints and refrains. These are people who really need these services to work, go to school and manage their lives. The internet is so important in all facets of our lives.”
After multiple calls, Optimum officials could not be reached for comment Monday at their Long Island headquarters.
The company then issued a statement: “Altice shares the state’s goal of ensuring that Connecticut residents and businesses enjoy high quality service and a positive customer experience. That’s why Altice has invested throughout Connecticut, building and deploying a 100% Fiber Optimum broadband network that provides reliable infrastructure and symmetric Internet services to our communities and customers.”
The company continued, “Connecticut was one of the first areas where we launched multi-gigabit speeds earlier this year to meet the ever-increasing broadband needs of our customers, and we are also participating in the affordable connectivity program, which provides free broadband services. internet service. We are proud to serve our Connecticut communities and will cooperate with state officials to provide relevant information. ”
In-home technician visits to fix reported issues can cost $75, but complaints continue, Tong said.
“Customers are entitled to and expect to receive the internet speeds they paid for,” Tong said.
Along with speed issues, Tong’s office handled complaints about customer service, tech support, and service charges.
“Our investigation is looking for complete records dating back to January 2017 to determine exactly what Altice Optimum knew and what they were doing to deliver the speeds and internet service they promised,” Tong said. “If our investigation finds that Optimum has violated Connecticut law, we will not hesitate to hold them accountable.”
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The larger problem, officials said, is that constant internet access has become a statewide necessity and is often as important as the services provided by utilities.
In a similar case, Tong’s office reached a settlement with Frontier Communications in August, following more than 1,400 complaints, nearly three times Optimum’s number. Some of the issues were the same, such as poor customer service, poor internet quality, high fees, and issues with returning equipment.
“Frontier Communications, which also had a reputation, actually didn’t deliver the promised service,” Tong said.
Frontier has settled the civil case for more than $60 million, and the agreement is designed to “significantly expand high-speed internet access for Frontier customers in economically challenged communities, end a monthly internet surcharge hidden $6.99 and force significant improvements in Frontier marketing and marketing. customer service,” Tong said.
State Sen. Norm Needleman, a Democrat from Essex who co-chairs the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee, said at the press conference that he was concerned about companies that “over-promised and underdeliver without any explanation. … All have an obligation to their customers, whether you classify them as taxpayers or not.”
Needleman added: “As the internet has become a vital part of daily life, households that depend on these services for employment, education and entertainment can suffer significant harm if they do not have a service Reliable Internet. If Altice Optimum contributed to this harm, they should bear the consequences.”
Christopher Keating can be reached at email@example.com
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