FTC sues Frontier for misleading consumers about its DSL speeds

Wooden gavel and gold legal scale that appear to have sunlight falling on them
Among other things, the lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent future legal violations and thousands in civil penalties. (Getty Images/William_Potter)

Frontier Communications faces a showdown with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), after the regulator sued it for allegedly failing to deliver promised internet speeds to consumers.

In a lawsuit filed in a U.S. district court in California today, the FTC claims Frontier violated various state and federal laws by advertising and signing consumers up for DSL speeds it knew it couldn’t provide. It also accuses Frontier of overcharging consumers, billing them for a higher-speed service than they actually received.

Frontier hit back in a statement, arguing the case was “without merit” and promising to mount a “vigorous defense.” It said the FTC's case was built on "baseless allegations" and insisted its DSL speeds were “clearly and accurately articulated” to consumers in its marketing materials and disclosures.

The operator has around 3 million internet subscribers across the U.S., with approximately 1.3 million of these served by its copper-based residential DSL service.  

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In its complaint, the FTC alleges that on “numerous” occasions “Frontier or its sales representatives have offered consumers, and those consumers have accepted, subscriptions for DSL internet service at speed tiers that Frontier could not provide to those consumers.” It claims Frontier also “provisioned consumers for slower speeds than the tiers of DSL internet service to which” they were subscribed, preventing them “from ever, or for more than de minimis durations, receiving the maximum speeds” promised.

“The DSL speed tiers Frontier tells consumers they are subscribed to and the speeds Frontier actually provides those consumers substantially differ,” the FTC argues. “Indeed, in numerous instances, the speeds provisioned and provided to consumers correspond with slower, and often less expensive, tiers of DSL service offered by Frontier.”

In a press release, the FTC said it had received “thousands” of consumer complaints about Frontier’s practices since January 2015.

The attorneys general of Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin joined the FTC’s complaint, as did the district attorney offices of Los Angeles and Riverside counties in California.

Among other things, the lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent future legal violations and thousands in civil penalties.