Connecticut Attorney General William Tong has launched an investigation into Optimum Altice for allegedly misrepresenting its internet services.
The announcement Monday comes after his office received nearly 500 consumer complaints about slow internet and hidden fees going back to 2017.
“The overwhelming number of complaints relate to consumers who have not received advertised speeds for Optimum 300 megabits per second and Optimum 400 megabits per second, cable internet plans they paid for,” Tong said.
He said these issues peaked during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when access to the internet was vital to day-to-day life.
“The internet is so important to us in every facet of our lives now,” Tong said. “And people have been able to prove to themselves and to us that they paid for 300 or 400 megabits per second and they’re not getting that.”
Multiple customers found they were not receiving their internet speed that they paid for after running speed tests. A customer with a compromised immune system reported that her internet ran as low as 16 megabits per second — far below the internet speed they paid for.
Consumers said they were also charged for assistance services despite their internet problems not being resolved. This investigation will also determine if Optimum Altice has been knowingly charging customers with hidden additional fees and addressing their poor technical support.
“Altice shares the state’s goal of ensuring Connecticut residents and businesses receive high-quality service and have a positive customer experience. That is why Altice has been investing across Connecticut, building and deploying a 100% Optimum Fiber broadband network that provides reliable infrastructure and symmetrical internet services to our communities and customers,” an Optimum Altice spokesperson said in a statement.
The company said Connecticut was one of the first areas where multi-gigabit speeds were launched earlier this year to meet broadband needs of customers. It also offers the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides free high-speed internet service.
“We are proud to serve our Connecticut communities and will cooperate with state officials to provide relevant information,” the spokesperson said.
The internet and cable provider has been investigated for similar issues in other states. In 2021, New Jersey launched its own probe into Optimum Altice’s poor internet quality after receiving hundreds of complaints since 2016. The Asbury Park Press reports internet services would go down for hours in the state and internet speeds would constantly fluctuate. Altice claimed that these issues were due to a 40% increase in average data usage due to work and schools going virtual during the peak of the pandemic.
Marilyn Davis, senior director for government affairs at Altice USA, told the Asbury Park Press that, “As a result of the pandemic and other events, 2020 presented unique and unprecedented challenges for Altice as it did for other companies and individuals across the nation.” However, New Jersey officials found that these internet service issues occurred even before the pandemic began.
Tong anticipates the investigation may result in a settlement. Connecticut received $60 million in payments from Frontier Communications earlier this year. Frontier failed to deliver advertised internet speed, charged hidden additional fees and charged customers for equipment they had already returned or for services they had canceled.