May 19, 2021 - Technology

FTC sues Frontier for allegedly lying about internet speeds

FTC building in Washington

Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission and six state attorneys general sued Frontier, an internet service provider, for allegedly not delivering the internet speeds it promised to consumers.

Why it matters: Frontier Communications is the only internet provider in many rural, small and mid-sized communities. The FTC's lawsuit claims Frontier upcharged consumers for higher-speed tiers of service, and then did not deliver it.

Between the lines: The move signals that FTC Acting Chairwoman Becca Slaughter plans to be aggressive in holding companies accountable for the promises they make to consumers — a key basis for the agency's enforcement actions.

  • It also comes at a time that the Biden administration is launching an effort to try to lower the price of broadband for all consumers.

Details: The complaint says Frontier advertised certain tiers of service in mail and online ads, and then sold the plans to consumers over the phone and online.

  • The service in question is the company's DSL connections, which is transmitted over copper telephone wires. Frontier provides DSL service to about 1.3 million in 25 states.
  • In complaints, consumers claim the slower internet speeds Frontier delivered instead of the speeds they purchased were not fast enough to support typical online activities.
  • Attorneys general in Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin signed on to the complaint, as well as district attorneys in Los Angeles County and Riverside County, California.

The other side: In a statement, Frontier said it believes the lawsuit is "without merit" and that it will present a "vigorous defense."

  • The company added that Frontier serves rural areas that are sparsely populated and the most difficult to serve, and that its DSL service has retained satisfied customers.
  • "Frontier’s DSL Internet speeds have been clearly and accurately articulated, defined and described in the Company’s marketing materials and disclosures," the company said.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to include Frontier's statement.

Go deeper