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Bit of a Rebate for Low Speed Broadband

Posted: 03-28-2016
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Thanks to an “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance” between the Attorney General of West Virginia and Frontier Communications, some high speed broadband customers are getting a discount on their monthly bill.  The operative word here is “some”.  The discount only applies to those getting the lowest of the low download speeds.

Many Frontier customers like me have been complaining for years about the injustice of being charged high speed internet prices for low speed service.  The agreement reached in December 2015 provides a credit to those broadband customers struggling with a download speed of 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps) or less.  Instead of paying up to $35.99 per month as they have been in the past, customers will pay $9.99 as of January 2016.  The new rate affects 28,000 customers state-wide and 880 customers here in Jefferson County.  The new rate appears as a credit on the monthly bill.

Unfortunately, thousands of other customers enduring lower speeds than Frontier’s high speed broadband promise of “up to 6.0 Mbps” will get no relief.

For those unfamiliar with the world of bytes and bits, here is a simple primer.  The term Mbps is a measure of how fast data is downloaded from cyberspace. In automobiles, the measure of fuel efficiency is MPG or “miles per gallon.”  In the world of broadband, the measure of speed is Mbps or “megabits per second”.   The higher the Mbps, the faster information is transferred.  What constitutes “high speed broadband”?  The WV State legislature has adopted the Federal Communications Commission definition of high speed broadband as 25 Mbps. The national average in the United States is 12.5 Mbps.   For those who enjoy streaming movies, 4 to 5 Mbps is the minimum speed to avoid buffering problems for high definition downloads.

Frontier high speed internet service promises “up to 6.0 Mbps.”   Unfortunately that “up to” can mean providing speeds as slow as 1, 2, or 3 Mbps.

The agreement between the WV Attorney General and Frontier provides relief to Frontier customers getting only 1.5 mbps or less.  Affected consumers will pay a reduced rate of $9.99 per month until the download speed increases to 6.   When I asked how the Attorney General and Frontier arrived at the 1.5 number, I received this official response from Frontier:   “We effectively created a lower price tier for Internet Max customers with speeds 1.5mbps or lower.  In the context of an overall compromise, this pricing made sense to both parties.”

The compromise might make sense to “both parties” but I doubt it makes sense to Frontier customers still paying full price for low speeds.  The simple solution would be to offer the same rebate to all customers experiencing download speeds of less than 6 Mbps.  The “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance” simply does not go far enough.

Frontier representatives speak at length about how the internet speeds are being increased in West Virginia.  That is great.  West Virginia is a rural state and I appreciate the difficulty of expanding service in rural areas.  But that does not change the fact that more consumers deserve relief from paying high speed prices for low speed service.