New York sues Charter over slow internet speeds

It accuses the former Time Warner Cable of delivering far less than it promised.

Reuters/Lucas Jackson

There's no question that many American internet providers fall short of expectations, but New York might just hold them accountable for making promises they don't keep. In the wake of a probe that revealed terrible broadband speeds, the state has sued Charter over claims that the cable giant's Spectrum badge (formerly Time Warner Cable) misled customers over the performance they'd get. Subscribers who paid for premium plans (100Mbps and beyond) from 2012 onward frequently got speeds up to 70 percent slower than advertised -- so pokey that they didn't even meet the performance of less expensive tiers. And if you believe investigators, this was very intentional.

The Attorney General's office reports that executives were aware the cable network couldn't reach promised speeds. They were aware of and even created bottlenecks at interconnection points, according to the complaints. Execs also "repeatedly" decided against upgrading either the network or users' cable modems, even though Spectrum/Time Warner Cable was raking in "billions of dollars" in profits.

We've reached out to Charter for comment, but it already tells Reuters that it's preparing to defend against the lawsuit and insists that it will "continue to invest" in its services. It's not hard to see why the company would fight the case, regardless of its merits. New York reckons that the compensation for subscribers could run into the "hundreds of millions" of dollars, and it would likely demand that Charter upgrade its infrastructure to make sure customers get what they pay for. All told, it could easily spend billions -- arguably an overdue investment, but an expensive one nonetheless.