Shades of VW: Did Time Warner Cable Cheat FCC Internet Speed Tests?

business_ethics_highlights_2File this under “representativeness of the sample”: according to a lawsuit filed by New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Time Warner Cable (TWC) provided modem-leasing internet customers with older-generation cable modems unable to produce the high-speed internet they were paying for. Meanwhile, the lawsuit alleges, TWC provided only customers whose internet speeds would be measured in a speed test undertaken by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the top-of-the-line equipment that would assure high reported internet speeds in the FCC’s Measuring Broadband America report. If true, the net effect of this scheme would be high reported TWC internet speeds, low delivered TWC internet speeds, and lots of customers paying for premium internet they weren’t actually receiving—all of which bears a more-than-passing similarity to Volkswagen’s diesel emissions test-cheating scheme. (Note: Linked article contains a link to the full legal complaint.) >>>

LINK: “Lipstick on a pig”: Time Warner Cable “deceived the FCC” in speed tests (by JON BRODKIN for Ars Technica)

… The FCC uses measuring equipment in the homes of more than 4,000 Internet subscribers across the US to produce its annual Measuring Broadband America (MBA) report, which compares actual Internet speeds to the speeds promised by broadband providers. But TWC played a few tricks to get better marks than it should have in the tests, according to the lawsuit filed in the New York State Supreme Court by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

According to the lawsuit, TWC used one tactic that an employee described as “lipstick on a pig.” In another case, a TWC executive wrote an e-mail saying, “We just have to make it work temporarily” in order to boost the FCC speed test scores.

Schneiderman accused TWC of providing customers with older-generation cable modems that couldn’t produce the speeds customers paid for. This was a problem in the FCC’s testing, so in the summer of 2013, TWC assured the FCC that it would replace the deficient modems for all of its subscribers and would start by replacing the modems of those subscribers involved in the FCC panel. Based on this assurance, the FCC excluded poor results from its annual report.

But while TWC did replace the modems of FCC panelists and instructed customer service reps to give the panelists “VIP treatment,” the company at the same time “aggressively pushed [other] subscribers in New York to pay to upgrade their Internet service plans—without ever checking whether the modems it leased to subscribers were capable of actually supporting their new speed plans,” the lawsuit said. The FCC report based on 2013 data gave TWC high marks, but it included a note about the company’s efforts to “encourage modem upgrades when needed.” …

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