A nutrition box for Internet service?
Of all the data being collected for a federal probe into truth-in-billing rules for communications services, one statistic stands out:
Consumers are paying for broadband Internet service that lags advertised speeds by as much as 50 percent.
That stat was revealed by the Federal Communications Commission last month during a report on its plan to connect the entire nation to high-speed Internet. The news sent Twitterverse aflutter with outrage. Post Tech got tons of feedback on an entry about it. Consumer advocates said the revelation could open the door to class-action lawsuits against carriers for deceptive advertising.
And now those groups are offering one solution to help users from getting bamboozled. The groups, along with the New America Foundation, have proposed a Nutrition Fact box for broadband. Instead of calories, carbs and fiber, the broadband box would break down data on guaranteed delivered speeds, price, and length of contract. Such details are often blurred and buried in the fine print of multiple-page service agreements.
Truthful delivery of advertised speeds clearly hit and nerve with users who spend an average of $150 each month for their cell phone, cable or satellite television, home phone and Internet connections. And it was added frustration to notoriously shoddy service problems.
Communications service providers often rank low among industries in customer satisfaction surveys. Some online consumer activists have used the viral messaging on the Web to push companies like Comcast and Verizon to refocus their ways. Service at Comcast was so bad for Advertising Age blogger Bob Garfield that he started a Web site Comcastmustdie.com. That site has died and the push online hasn't led to meaningful change on billing practices of communications firms like Comcast, AT&T, Dish TV, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile, consumer advocacy groups said.
"Consumers experience substantial confusion and frustration when choosing a service provider and plan, when using unexpectedly limited or low quality services, and when receiving higher-than expected bills," the groups wrote in final comments sent yesterday for the FCC review. "Substantial changes to the commission’s existing rules are necessary to remedy these problems."
Currently, carriers are generally left to voluntarily abide by some of the truth-in-billing standards, according to the groups that include Free Press, Consumers Union and Media Access Project.
The FCC's review looks at information available to consumers at all stages of the purchasing process of a communications service -- choosing a provider, choosing a service plan, managing use of the service plan, and deciding whether and when to switch an existing provider or plan.
Image credit: New America Foundation
October 29, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: Broadband , Consumers | Tags: consumer billing complaints, customer complaints comcast, internet speeds
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Posted by: squirma | October 29, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse
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