HARTFORD — Spurred on by repeated consumer complaints, state Attorney General William Tonge launched an investigation Monday into slow internet speeds, mediocre tech responses and hidden charges by cable company Altice Optimum.
Under Connecticut’s Unfair Business Practices Act, Tong will investigate nearly 500 complaints by consumers over the years.
One of the most common complaints is that consumers are not getting the fast internet speeds they paid for. Tong said that some consumers who logged 300 or 400 megabits per second have found that they are consistently getting 120 megabits per second. Tong said that a customer on the 400-megabit plan said she only received 10 to 40 megabits per second.
“We’ve had complaints from many consumers who have run speed tests. They find out they’re getting speeds that are much lower than what they paid for,” Tong said at a news conference in Hartford. And when they call Optimum looking for help – if they can reach someone – their problems are not resolved. ”
He’s personally a customer of Altice Optimum, which has an extensive footprint in Fairfield County, said Tong, a longtime Stamford resident. Tung said the company “has not yet responded” about the investigation.
“It should come as no surprise that customers are unhappy,” Tong told reporters. “We, as consumers, have learned to put up with a measure of bad service from some of our cable providers because you call it and you’re on hold and the call gets dropped. Then the call gets transferred, and it gets dropped. Many of us have had that experience personally, but this goes beyond some of those complaints. and continuous refrains.These are the people who really need these services to work, go to school and manage their lives.The Internet is very important in every aspect of our lives.
After multiple calls, Optimum officials could not be reached for comment Monday at their Long Island headquarters.
The company later released a statement: “Altice shares the state’s goal of ensuring Connecticut residents and businesses receive the highest quality service and positive customer experience. That’s why Altice is investing throughout Connecticut, building and deploying its 100 percent optimal fiber 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 growing broadband needs of our customers, and we also participate in the Affordable Connection Program, which provides free high-speed Internet service. We are proud to serve the communities of Our Connecticut and will work with state officials to provide relevant information.”
Home visits by technicians to fix reported problems can cost $75, Tung said, but complaints continue.
“Customers have the right to receive the internet speeds they paid for and expect to get,” Tong said.
Besides speed issues, Tong’s office handled complaints about customer service, tech support, and service fees.
“Our investigation seeks comprehensive records going back to January 2017 to establish exactly what Altice Optimum knew and what they were doing to deliver the internet speeds and service they promised,” Tong said. “If our investigation finds that Optimum violated Connecticut law, we will not hesitate to hold them accountable.”
Get exclusive coverage of decisions made by state and local government officials and how they affect you from the Courant’s political reporters.
The broader problem, officials said, is that continuous internet access has become a necessity across the state and is often just as important as the services provided by public utilities.
In a similar case, Tung’s office reached a settlement with Frontier Communications in August, which was claimed by more than 1,400 complaints — nearly three times Optimum’s number. Some of the issues were similar, such as mediocre customer service, poor internet quality, high fees, and problems returning equipment.
“Frontier Communications, which also has a good reputation, has not actually provided the service promised,” Tong said.
Frontier 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 strapped communities, end the hidden $6.99 monthly Internet fee, and force significant improvements in marketing Frontier and customer service.
State Sen. Norm Nedelman, a Democrat from Essex who co-chairs the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee, said at the news conference that he was concerned about companies that “overpromise and underperform without any explanation. … They are all obligated to their customers, whether Would you classify them as rate payers or not?”
Added Needleman: “As the Internet becomes a vital part of everyday life, families who rely on these services for employment, education and entertainment can suffer great harm if they lack reliable Internet service. If Altice Optimum contributes to this harm, they must face the consequences.” ”
Christopher Keating can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org