New York sets tougher standards for marketing internet speeds

ISPs will have to prove they can deliver the performance they claim.

New York isn't just asking Charter to clean up its act. The state has reached a settlement with Altice (Optimum's owner), Frontier, RCN and Engadget parent company Verizon that will have them adhere to stricter standards for advertising internet speeds. They'll have to back up their claims with regular speed testing, ensure they have enough network capacity to handle advertised third-party services and make clear that speeds on WiFi won't be the same as with a wired connection.

The companies will also have to make "direct financial commitments" to both improve their networks and offer compensation for some customers. These include a $25 million investment on Frontier's part to boost its upstate capacity, while Altice will pay $5 million to subscribers who didn't get equipment capable of fulfilling expected speeds. All of the providers will have to ensure they provide modems and routers that can handle advertised speeds, including free replacements.

This is just a New York agreement focused on major providers, and there are still areas where you might not get everything you'd like. Just because you can stream Netflix doesn't mean you're getting every last megabit, for instance. Nonetheless, it might benefit residents if the state is diligent in enforcing the terms. It's no secret that ISPs tend to oversell their performance while skimping on capacity and foisting outdated gear on subscribers -- this could raise the baseline quality of service for millions of people.