Have a cable Internet subscription and noticing slower-than-normal download speeds? If you live in New York, it might not be just you. On Sunday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman invited subscribers to major Internet service providers (ISPs) to test the speed of their connections and submit the results online.
Schneiderman’s office has created a new website, Internethealthtest.org, for customers to test their average connection. By measuring the throughput, or the speed at which files are transferred on any given connection, the site calculates an “Internet quality” score, which the Attorney General is requesting that New York users send to the state’s office via an online form.
“New Yorkers should get the Internet speeds they pay for. Too many of us may be paying for one thing, and getting another,” Schneiderman said in a related statement. “Families pay a huge cost already for Internet access in New York, so I will not tolerate a situation in which they aren’t getting what they have been promised.”
The crowdsourced tool is a significant expansion of an ongoing investigation that began in October. Reuters reports that the Attorney General’s office sent letters to executives at Verizon, Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable – New York’s largest ISPs – asking the companies to provide copies of internal network tests and disclosures made to customers regarding Internet speeds. The letters, written by Internet advocate and special adviser to the Attorney General’s office Tim Wu, focused on interconnection disputes — the agreements between Internet providers that prevent certain types of network slowdown.
The investigation has so far been applauded by consumer advocacy groups. “Internet speeds can vary considerably … and consumers do not always get the ‘blazingly fast’ Internet speeds they are paying for,” said Programs Director for Consumers Union Chuck Bell. “We have heard from dozens of consumers in New York who are concerned that they are not getting the Internet speeds promised by Internet providers.”
Susan Lerner, Executive Director for Common Cause/NY, said that Schneiderman’s decision to crowdsource Internet speeds is a logical but nonetheless important step. “No individual New Yorker acting alone can influence the giant telecom companies that control broadband in our state,” she said.
The implications of the case, of course, extend well beyond New York. In June of last year, the Federal Communications Commission released a scathing “State of US Broadband” report that found that major ISPs, including AT&T, Cox, and others “[fail] to deliver consistent speeds to consumers that are commensurate to their advertised speeds.” Should the New York Attorney General’s succeed in taking underperforming regional ISPs to task, it could give investigators in other states ammunition to do the same elsewhere.
Representatives for Verizon, Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable told Reuters that they would comply with the Attorney General’s request.
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