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Jun 4, 2021

Internet Company Sued for Online Slowness (I Should Be, Too)

A shocking revelation about unkept promises (provided you shock easily)

By Ed Goldman

I was shocked—shocked!—to read in the Wall Street Journal late last month that a company was being sued over its claims of providing speedy internet service.

Does this mean, by extension, that Anacin didn’t provide “fast, fast, FAST relief from headaches, neuralgia and neuritis,” as its ads claimed years ago?

Edgy Cartoon

“Hi-Yo, Bandwidth, Awaaaay!”

More to the point: Does anyone know what neuralgia and neuritis are? They must be pretty bad if, when you contract either of them, you need relief not just soon or in a while but fast fast FAST.

Thinking of speed claims, I remember that when I bought a 1966 Ford Mustang in 1972 from one of my parents’ friends, the speedometer indicated the car could drive 160 miles per hour if its driver so desired. But could it have?

I once drove it home in a rain-and-windstorm from UC Davis, about 20 minutes from my home in Sacramento. When I attempted to accelerate, thinking this would help me stabilize the fishtailing I was trying to manage—please note that I’ve never claimed to understand basic laws of velocity, physics or automotive safety—the car climbed up to 78 mph and began spewing smoke from under its hood. I took this as an omen of what would have occurred if I ever tried to reach 160.

Years later, I donated it to the Stanford Home for Children, which is now called Stanford Youth Solutions (one of which, of course, would be to age). By then, the car hadn’t been driven in a few years so I felt no need to include a cautionary note on the windshield about its overstated speedometer claim.

To get back: Frontier Communications is the internet provider that’s being sued not only by six states but also by the Federal Trade Commission, which makes the thing pretty serious. When you stick the word “federal” in front of anything and the word “commission” on the back of it, you know you’re not just screwing around. For example, if there were a Federal Columnists Commission, you can bet I’d be lawyering up.

But let’s be evenhanded. Who expects a company named Frontier to be cyber-forward? Frontier Communications sounds like what they meant to name the Pony Express before a horse breeder donated a lot of money to its intended IPO. I can even imagine the tycoon trying to sound regular-guyish about his largesse: “Let’s just say I’m ponyin’ up a mess o’ cash, fellas. ‘Ponyin’ up.’ See what I did there?”

In its own defense, Frontier said it provides internet service ”in some of the country’s most rural areas ‘that often have challenging terrain, are more sparsely populated and are the most difficult to serve,’” according to the Journal and the provider’s spokesperson. Nonetheless, per the article, “A consulting firm found in 2019 that 30 percent of the Frontier subscribers it analyzed were potentially oversold on tiers of internet speed that exceeded the speeds they were provided, the suit said.”
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Three final questions:

  1. Shouldn’t the consulting firm have been analyzing the service itself—and not, as indicated by the article, the subscribers? Did the consulting firm consist of psychiatrists? Did they think the subscribers had abandonment issues because they couldn’t click through their Tumblr site fast enough?
  2. Who was the “suit” quoted at the end of that paragraph? Can he or she be trusted? Has he or she been analyzed? And most important of all: Did he or she never get a pony? 
  3. See what I did there?

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).