Verizon faces lawsuit from customer over advertised DSL speed

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) will have to answer a legal complaint from a California consumer who claims that Verizon did not deliver the speed they promised when she switched to a higher priced plan.

According to a complaint filed in Los Angeles state court by Patricia Allen of Santa Monica, a Verizon sales representative convinced her to upgrade her service from a $24.99 to a $34.99 plan that promised to deliver 1.5 Mbps.

However, Allen argues that the speed she got was half of the 1.5 Mbps the representative promised she'd get and when she asked Verizon why she wasn't getting the speed she signed up for, the telco told her that she could not get the faster speeds because she lived two miles from the nearest Verizon Central Office (CO). Another sales representative told her to switch back to a lower speed tier since her line could only support speeds up to 768 Kbps.

Part of this issue speaks to the unavoidable reality that the speed of DSL delivery degrades as the copper connection moves further from the CO or RT terminal that houses the DSLAM equipment to each home.    

Allen said she filed the suit, which is based on breach of contract and California consumer protection laws, on behalf of "all persons and entities in California who are located a certain distance" from a Verizon office."

Not surprisingly, Verizon immediately rebuffed the suit. "We believe the lawsuit is baseless and without merit," Verizon spokesman Rich Young told Paid Content.

The disparity between advertised speeds and what consumers actually get has been a growing concern for consumers that are increasingly using the Internet for other services besides data such as online video streaming and VoIP service.

In 2010, the FCC asked 10,000 volunteer broadband consumers to participate in a scientific study to measure home broadband speeds as way to measure if a service provider is actually delivering the speeds the advertise.

Dealing with disparities about advertised and delivered broadband speeds is not just a U.S. issue. In addition to the FCC's program, the UK's advertising regulators--the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)--introduced new ISP advertising rules that are set on how broadband providers promote "unlimited" broadband service.

While Verizon has been putting more emphasis on its wireless service and expanding its Fiber to the Premises (FTTP)-based service in areas it already built out, it continues to lose DSL subscribers every quarter. Verizon's DSL service issues aren't isolated to California. The telco faced similar questions about its DSL expansion plans in New Jersey and announced last week that it would require any customer purchasing or upgrading an existing DSL service would have to purchase a POTS line.

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