N.Y. AG Continues to Press Time Warner on Internet Speed Complaints

In a letter to Time Warner Cable's CEO, the AG cited thousands of complaints from residents and asked the company to fix the problems.

Time Warner Cable, Comcast, N.Y. attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, Internet speeds, speed tests, Charter Communications, TWC

Complaints about slower-than-advertised Internet speeds from Time Warner Cable customers in New York state continue to be a focus of the state's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, who has asked the company's new owner to "clean up Time Warner Cable's act."

In a June 8 letter to Tom Rutledge, CEO of Charter Communications, which bought Time Warner Cable (TWC) in May 2015 for $78.7 billion, the attorney general's office wrote that recent Internet speed tests run by customers showed results that were "abysmal" and not in keeping with the company's advertised claims of "blazing-fast" Internet speeds and "super-reliable" connections.

The two-page letter, signed by Tim Wu, senior enforcement counsel and special advisor in Schneiderman's office, said that as Charter Communications now begins to rebrand its current TWC offerings to Charter's Spectrum services, the AG's office hopes that "this announcement reflects more than mere branding—and signals your intent to substantially improve the reliability, performance and speed of the Internet delivered to customers, as well as how Time Warner Cable markets its services."

The AG's office began last December to investigate an undisclosed number of customer complaints and asked frustrated consumers to run speed tests using open-source tools and then report their results.

"The results we received from Time Warner Cable customers were abysmal," wrote Wu. "Not only did Time Warner Cable fail to achieve the speeds its customers were promised and paid for (which Time Warner Cable blamed on the testing method), it generally performed worse in this regard than other New York broadband providers."

Wu wrote that "what we have seen in our investigation so far suggests that Time Warner Cable has earned the miserable reputation it enjoys among consumers" and that "overcoming this history will require more than a name change; it will require a fundamental revolution in how Time Warner Cable does business and treats its customers."

The problems appear to be that TWC "has been failing to take adequate or necessary steps to keep pace with the demand of Time Warner Cable customers—at times letting connections with key Internet content providers become so congested that large volumes of Internet data were regularly lost or discarded." The result has been "degraded performance for customers, including those using popular on-demand video services, like Netflix—despite specific promises from Time Warner Cable that they could stream video content reliably."

The problems appear to be particularly acute for customers during prime-time viewing periods, as movies freeze, Websites fail to load and games become non-responsive, wrote Wu. "In addition, it appears that Time Warner Cable has been advertising its WiFi in ways that defy the technology's technical capabilities and has been provisioning some of its customers with equipment that simply cannot achieve the higher bandwidths the company has sold to them."

Wu's letter asks the company's new management "to work with the NYAG to clean up Time Warner Cable's act and deliver the quality Internet service New Yorkers deserve and have long been promised."

Doug Cohen, a spokesman for the AG's office, provided eWEEK with a copy of the letter and said that the investigation is continuing. The office is also looking into similar speed complaints from Internet customers of Verizon and Cablevision, he said.

In reply to an inquiry from eWEEK, a spokesman for Charter said the company "has made significant investments in our core infrastructure, which has enabled us to offer high-value products backed by a high-quality service organization throughout our footprint."

As Charter, TWC and Bright House Networks continue to integrate themselves into one unit, "we will continue to do the same, bringing all TWC and BHN systems all-digital so that Charter can provide its advanced Spectrum products and services, bringing greater value and more consumer-friendly policies, such as broadband speeds starting at up to 60M bps," the statement continued. "In addition, Charter's interconnection policies have been lauded by companies such as Netflix as a real benefit of these transactions for consumers. We look forward to bringing all these enhancements to customers in New York and redefining what a cable company can be."

Charter acquired TWC for $78.7 billion in May 2015 just a month after an earlier $45 billion TWC acquisition proposal by Comcast fell apart due to potential roadblocks from federal regulators who were wary of the merger due to concerns about unfair competition and harm to industry innovation. That merger had been proposed back in February 2014.

The musical chairs with TWC continued even after the Comcast deal fell apart in April 2015, when Luxembourg-based cable and telecom company Altice also began looking to pursue TWC.