Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

posted by janrinok on Sunday November 20, @10:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the consistently-inconsistent dept.

https://www.extremetech.com/internet/340982-first-ever-isp-study-reveals-arbitrary-costs-fluctuating-speeds-lack-of-options

Does anyone in the United States actually like their internet service provider (ISP)? If new research is anything to go off of, the answer is probably no. The results from a first-of-its-kind nationwide ISP study were published Thursday, and in what will come as a surprise to absolutely no one reading this site, consumers' reliance on this modern necessity is being widely exploited.

Consumer Reports, an independent nonprofit research organization best known for its product reviews, launched its Fight for Fair Internet study in July 2021. At its core, the study sought to publicize what Americans pay for internet service and (more importantly) what their money actually gets them. We'll avoid any fanfare here: Things aren't great. After analyzing more than 22,000 internet bills from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, Consumer Reports found that arbitrary pricing and other disturbing practices are commonplace. Worse, the magazine found this to be true across many of the 526 domestic ISPs examined during the study—including all 26 of the largest providers, which cover more than 90 percent of the country's services.

One anonymized AT&T bill from the published study illustrates how consumers are issued discounts seemingly at random and without information on how to keep the discount. The bill shows that the customer was given two $10 discounts on their original bill of $80: One for bundling and another for "loyalty." Most of us appreciate a good discount, but without any explanation as to what "loyalty" involves—was the customer made aware of the discount? Is the discount permanent?—it's difficult to compare pricing with other ISPs, which stymies competition.

Some ISPs even use these arbitrary discounts to make it appear as though their customers are getting a better deal when they actually aren't. More than half of the AT&T and Verizon bills Consumer Reports analyzed included some sort of discount, while Google Fiber bills never did...even though some Google Fiber customers paid lower prices for the same level of service.

[...] "The unavoidable fees are especially problematic because consumers may believe they are government-imposed when, in fact, many are company-imposed and distinguished from the core service price at the provider's discretion," Consumer Reports said. "They can surprise consumers when they appear on monthly bills, and can enable providers to raise prices without seeming to violate marketing or contractual price commitments."

ISPs often boast higher speeds than their competitors'—a factor that increasingly weighs on consumers' minds as more people work and attend school online. But many of these companies regularly fail to provide the megabits per second (Mbps) promised in ads and service agreements. This is particularly the case for consumers who pay extra for "premium" plans, who reportedly receive less than half the download speed they're paying for. Consumers who subscribed to plans promising 940 to 1,200Mbps often end up receiving median speeds of between 360 and 373Mbps.


Original Submission

This discussion was created by janrinok (52) for logged-in users only, but now has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
(1)
  • (Score: 3, Funny) by stormreaver on Sunday November 20, @11:04PM (4 children)

    by stormreaver (5101) on Sunday November 20, @11:04PM (#1280726)

    It took a study 25 years to catch up with what we've all known all along. Next they'll discover that politicians might be corrupted by bribe..er...campaign contribution money.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Monday November 21, @01:53AM (3 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday November 21, @01:53AM (#1280746)

      > Is the discount permanent?

      Xfinity/Comcast customer here, I can tell you with certainty: no.

      They'll offer bundles with cable TV that are cheaper than internet alone, for a period of 6-12 months.

      They'll sign you up at 50% off, then 6-12 months later you're jacked up 2x, then every 6-12 months after that you're jacked up again whenever they feel like.

      As the article says: arbitrary prices, poor customer service: oh, your internet is out for the 12th time this week? Well, sir, I'm checking it now and it seems fine, there's nothing we can do. On the 4th service call to the house, which took over a year to get to, as the service tech was driving away it thankfully flaked out and I ran down the driveway to drag him back... Oh, well, yes, that is bad, I'll run a temporary line from the pole and we'll see if that fixes it. Somebody will be along to bury it in the next 7-10 days. 10 MONTHS later I plant myself at the manager's desk in the local service center and start explaining in a way that everybody on our half of the room can hear that an orange cable has been lying on top of our grass for TEN MONTHS with periodic promises of somebody coming to bury it, someday. Miraculously, buried within 4 hours of that event. Last week, Monday Tuesday and Wednesday, 45-ish minute service outages starting around 10:30am. No warning, no explanation. I would understand if you need to do something to service the lines, but considering what all those lines are used for anymore it would seem the least you could do is somehow notify your customers of a planned outage and the expected duration.

      I was considering getting a $50/month 5G service as a backup, I mean, we already have our cellphones and can hotspot off of them for $0.01/MB, but the outages were getting to me. But, it seems that it was getting to everyone else in our neighborhood too because the 5G service that was available a few months ago isn't anymore - too many customers already signed up in our neighborhood, I wonder what their service is like during peak hours now?

      --
      Україна досі не є частиною Росії. https://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/878601.html Слава Україні 🌻
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, @10:46AM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, @10:46AM (#1280784)

        Why are you bitching about an internet cable above ground on your property? Jesus dude.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday November 21, @11:56AM (1 child)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday November 21, @11:56AM (#1280789)

          Unburied cable is more vulnerable to being cut by lawn mowers, damaged when driven over by cars and trucks, chewed by squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, etc.

          Next time your buried cable gets replaced just tell the tech you don't care if they bury it or not and enjoy tripping over it yourself for a couple of years. Call me when UPS or FedEx wins that injury lawsuit against your homeowners insurance.

          --
          Україна досі не є частиною Росії. https://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/878601.html Слава Україні 🌻
          • (Score: 2) by gznork26 on Monday November 21, @01:54PM

            by gznork26 (1159) on Monday November 21, @01:54PM (#1280802) Homepage Journal

            After an unburied wire was set up to get us service, the city's mower truck came by and I watched it destroy that wire. On the phone with customer service, they insisted on going through a series of diagnostics to prove to them that the was no longer a connection. Anything to find a way to convince the customer that what they observed never happened.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, @11:28PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, @11:28PM (#1280728)

    People obviously don't choose the best

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by bzipitidoo on Sunday November 20, @11:29PM (12 children)

    by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Sunday November 20, @11:29PM (#1280729) Journal

    Make it official fact that telecoms rip off the public. Great. Now what? How do we improve matters? Nationalize the telecoms? Break them up? Build a public system?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, @11:36PM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, @11:36PM (#1280730)

      Now what? How do we improve matters?

      Buy more wisely. Seek out better people for public office. Stop believing bullshit. Don't hate your neighbor so much. Antipathy has been the driver for far too long. We create our own misery

      • (Score: 0, Flamebait) by Ox0000 on Monday November 21, @12:16AM (3 children)

        by Ox0000 (5111) on Monday November 21, @12:16AM (#1280736)

        I don't think you understood, GP asked for easy solutions. The type that doesn't require us to self-reflect or take responsibility and preferably doesn't involve expending any effort, nor change our habits. If we can keep demonizing Others, that's an added plus we'd love to incorporate into that plan as well.

        Please do better next time you come up with a solution that would actually work...

        • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, @01:41AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, @01:41AM (#1280742)

          The solutions I provided are the only ones that can work, nothing else will, or are you saying the problem is intractable? Not a good reflection on the species, doomed to become Ferengis

          • (Score: 2) by Ox0000 on Monday November 21, @04:58PM

            by Ox0000 (5111) on Monday November 21, @04:58PM (#1280831)

            Apologies...
            My comment above (https://soylentnews.org/comments.pl?noupdate=1&sid=52487&page=1&cid=1280736#commentwrap) was intended to be aimed sarcastically at the post's GP (https://soylentnews.org/comments.pl?noupdate=1&sid=52487&page=1&cid=1280729), not at its direct parent (by AC, https://soylentnews.org/comments.pl?noupdate=1&sid=52487&page=1&cid=1280730#commentwrap). [soylentnews.org] I was trying to convey that that posts direct parent actually made a meaningful contribution, and in doing so, highlighted some painful/uncomfortable truths about ourselves.

            So to be explicit: yes, the solutions you provided are the only ones that can work. Your comment was insightful and beneficial.

            Once again, apologies for the confusion. I was trying to add weight to your contribution, but failed to do so.

        • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Kell on Monday November 21, @03:23AM

          by Kell (292) on Monday November 21, @03:23AM (#1280750)

          Back when I lived in the US (shudder!) I had precisely one choice where I lived: Comcast. Well... Comcast or no internet at all, which as a post-doc was not a real choice. If they have a monopoly, then nothing will stop them from exploiting it. The local walk-in Comcast office had bullet-proof glass across the front desk, like a some sort of high-security bank. It was bonkers.

          --
          Scientists ask questions. Engineers solve problems.
    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Monday November 21, @01:51AM (5 children)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 21, @01:51AM (#1280745) Homepage Journal

      One solution that seems to be working for me, are government grants to non-telco providers. A year ago, our only choice was 10 meg DSL, and no possible upgrade. And, 10 meg was only 10 meg on occasion. Then, the electric cooperative got a grant, and started putting in fiber. Now, I have 100 meg service that is actually ~86 to ~93 meg, for about half the price that the DSL cost. I'm hoping that the same story is happening all around the country, despite efforts by cable and telcos to put a stop to it. https://soylentnews.org/article.pl?sid=22/11/18/010205 [soylentnews.org]

      --
      Don’t confuse the news with the truth.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, @03:03AM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, @03:03AM (#1280747)

        > government grants

        Wait, what happened to your sarcastic catch phrase? Weren't you one of the people using this?
                    We're the Government and we're here to help you.

        Inquiring minds want to know...

        • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Monday November 21, @03:50AM (2 children)

          by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 21, @03:50AM (#1280751) Homepage Journal

          Correct.

          The part of the government that feeds money to the telcos by the truckload, for no return whatsoever, is our enemey.

          That part of the government that actually gets high speed internet out here in the sticks is not our enemy.

          --
          Don’t confuse the news with the truth.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, @04:36AM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, @04:36AM (#1280757)

            Like this?
                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_government [wikipedia.org]

            • (Score: 1) by Runaway1956 on Monday November 21, @12:03PM

              by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 21, @12:03PM (#1280790) Homepage Journal

              Not exactly. I distinguished between enemy and not enemy. But, since you ask, ensuring that high speed internet is available nationwide would fall under the good government heading.

              --
              Don’t confuse the news with the truth.
      • (Score: 2) by number11 on Monday November 21, @04:08AM

        by number11 (1170) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 21, @04:08AM (#1280753)

        Your utility's fiber sounds fine. You can do that where the biggies haven't bought the local (or state) politicians and prohibited it.

        Fortunately, where I live there are 2, maybe 3, fiber options (1 bored underground, others off the pole), along with Comcast cable, and (terrible+incompetent) telco ADSL. So I've got decent choices The local independent ISP (underground fiber) is 500/500, where Comcast was 70/7 or thereabouts, 10% cheaper, and rock solid. Maybe our politicians are too expensive for the lobbyists, I dunno.

    • (Score: 2) by sfm on Monday November 21, @06:15PM

      by sfm (675) on Monday November 21, @06:15PM (#1280851)

      I'm wondering if TelCo's were required to advertise a MINIMUM data rate
      and not the typical speeds we see listed now (complete with disclaimers
      saying something along the lines of YMMV). At least consumers would
      have a better idea what to expect.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Opportunist on Monday November 21, @12:29AM (1 child)

    by Opportunist (5545) on Monday November 21, @12:29AM (#1280738)

    The conditions are worst in places where there is only one ISP and far better if there's like 5 competing companies?

    Our small (seriously, tiny) country has five cellphone providers. Five. We're really close to them paying you to sign up with them, actually, I distinctly remember one offer of your first month or so being free as long as you sign up for a year.

    Monopolies have always been anathema to good service.

    • (Score: 2) by Booga1 on Monday November 21, @12:33AM

      by Booga1 (6333) on Monday November 21, @12:33AM (#1280739)

      That's the case here. There's one DSL company with 1.5mbps, one cable company with 1.5mbps, and Comcast with gigabit.
      Any guess which one we had to go with? You can't even get HD video streaming with 1.5mbps, so it's no question at all.

  • (Score: 2) by Tokolosh on Monday November 21, @04:16AM (1 child)

    by Tokolosh (585) on Monday November 21, @04:16AM (#1280754)

    Can we simply have the old-fashioned concept of plain dealing, which leads to goodwill and customer loyalty? But no, the MBAs want us to loathe them.

    I am looking at you, ISPs, airlines, hotels, car rental companies, phone companies, and last but not least, the US Government.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Tokolosh on Monday November 21, @04:19AM

      by Tokolosh (585) on Monday November 21, @04:19AM (#1280755)

      I left out the entire medical establishment. Probably more hated than the rest put together.

  • (Score: 0, Troll) by ChrisMaple on Monday November 21, @05:01AM

    by ChrisMaple (6964) on Monday November 21, @05:01AM (#1280759)

    "Fight for Fair Internet". By its name, they announced their conclusion before they conducted the study.

(1)