Report Says 20 Million U.S. Broadband Complaints Went Unresolved Last Year

from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept

42 million Americans lack access to any broadband whatsoever. Another 83 million American consumers can only get access to broadband from one ISP, usually Comcast. Tens of millions more are stuck under a broadband duopoly, usually comprising of Comcast/Spectrum and some apathetic telco that refuses to upgrade or repair its aging DSL lines. Data makes it extremely clear the end result of this lack of competition is some of the highest prices for broadband in the developed world, and some of the worst customer service of any industry in America.

Instead of tackling the corruption and regulatory capture that has allowed geographical monopolies to dominate the sector (harming consumers, competition, and technical innovation alike) America enjoys taking the opposite approach: namely lying about the scale of the problem, then routinely kneecapping and defunding the regulators tasked with trying to improve things. The end result: more of the same problems. New data from Fairshake estimates that 20 million American households have unresolved complaints against their ISPs in just the last year. The complaints are the usual fare: overbilling, slow service, crappy customer service, and misleading bogus fees. All told, the outfit estimates that 40 million U.S. homes had filed a complaint about their ISP last year alone:

“In our survey, 37 percent of respondents said that they had had an experience with an ISP in the last year in which they were unfairly charged for service, or otherwise treated unfairly. That’s more than one-third of respondents. And when you extrapolate that finding to the 110.57 million U.S. households that had fixed broadband access in 2018, that’s more than 40 million households with a complaint against their ISP in just one year — 40,446,500 of them, to be exact.”

Half of those complaints went completely unresolved. The survey also found that many angry customers considered taking legal action, but many couldn’t afford to do so or couldn’t figure out how to make the FCC complaint process work in their favor:

  • 31 percent of respondents said they stopped pursuing legal action when they found the process to be too expensive.
  • 31 percent stopped because they simply weren’t sure how to proceed.
  • 22 percent of respondents said they wanted to pursue legal action, but the process was too complicated.
  • 16 percent of respondents said they needed help pursuing legal action, but couldn’t find the help they needed.”
  • Granted Fairshake’s entire business model is focused on streamlining complaints against corporations. Their efforts to streamline the lopsided and broken binding arbitration experience in particular has pissed off companies that have spent the better part of the last thirty years weakening regulatory oversight, weakening antitrust enforcement, and slowly but surely eroding consumer legal rights via Congress, regulators, and the courts.

    Even then, Fairshake politely avoids explaining why the U.S. telecom sector is so problematic, and, in many ways, getting worse thanks to mindless partisanship and our collective gullibility.

    One, monopolies don’t have to care, that’s why they’re monopolies. Two, instead of focusing on policies that crack down on monopolization, increase competition, and enforce existing rules to protect consumers, the Trump FCC effectively self-immolated at telecom lobbyist behest, creating a massive consumer protection void. Not only that, the FCC actively worked with telecom lobbyists to try and ban states from being able to protect consumers either. Superficially, this was supposed to “drive massive investment” to the U.S. broadband sector, something data proves very clearly never happened.

    In reality, it created a consumer protection vacuum nobody wants to fill. And nobody wants to fill it because, if you haven’t noticed, America routinely prioritizes quarterly revenues over common sense, healthy markets, or giving a shit. It’s why we throw $42 billion in tax cuts at AT&T in exchange for 41,000 layoffs and an investment cut. It’s why we throw countless billions in subsidies at AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Spectrum in exchange for next-generation networks that, mysteriously, somehow always wind up half deployed.

    U.S. broadband is a monopolistic con propped up by captured regulators and feckless lawmakers, and until we’re capable of acknowledging that obvious reality in a way that can break through misleading industry-sponsored noise, we’re going to keep making the same mistakes.

    Filed Under: , , , ,

    Rate this comment as insightful
    Rate this comment as funny
    You have rated this comment as insightful
    You have rated this comment as funny
    Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
    You have flagged this comment
    The first word has already been claimed
    The last word has already been claimed
    Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

    Comments on “Report Says 20 Million U.S. Broadband Complaints Went Unresolved Last Year”

    Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment

    Re: Re: BBB

    The BBB works okay on smaller businesses and businesses who care about their reputation with the BBB. They have no real ability to change things on their own.

    When it comes to the big names in home and mobile broadband — Comcast, AT&T, Verizon — not only are they the only show in town in many places, but they don’t give a damn about their reputation. They consistently have some of the lowest ratings for any business in the USA and they still grift, raise prices, and give customers the run-around.

    I like your optimism Koby, but this is not something the BBB has any chance of resolving.

    Professor Ronnysays:

    Aging DSL

    some apathetic telco that refuses to upgrade or repair its aging DSL lines.

    20+ years ago, I got DSL from Mindspring. They did an excellent job. Mindspring was sold to Earthlink, which did an okay job. Earthlink was purchased by AT&T that did a crappy job. Finally, AT&T threw up their hands and said they were cancelling all the DSL.

    They did lay fiber so I do have a real honest-to-god choice between AT&T fiber and Comcast cable.


    Vakilbashi is the largest intelligent and electronic legal system in Iran and allows you to easily create the contracts, forms and court bills you need, which are prepared by the professional lawyers of the Vakilbashi team, in the shortest possible time and with the highest quality, only By answering a few simple questions; Get step-by-step instructions on how to handle a lawsuit, a step-by-step guide to proving your rights in court, and a video tutorial on how to write a specialized contract.

    Add Your Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

    Comment Options:

    Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

    What's this?

    Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

    Follow Techdirt

    Techdirt Daily Newsletter

    Techdirt Deals
    Report this ad??|??Hide Techdirt ads
    Techdirt Insider Discord
    The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
    Older Stuff
    12:25 Australian Privacy Commissioner Says 7-Eleven Broke Privacy Laws By Scanning Customers' Faces At Survey Kiosks (6)
    10:50 Missouri Governor Doubles Down On 'View Source' Hacking Claim; PAC Now Fundraising Over This Bizarrely Stupid Claim (45)
    10:45 Daily Deal: The All-in-One Microsoft, Cybersecurity, And Python Exam Prep Training Bundle (0)
    09:43 Want To Understand Why U.S. Broadband Sucks? Look At Frontier Communications In Wisconsin, West Virginia (8)
    05:36 Massachusetts College Decides Criticizing The Chinese Government Is Hate Speech, Suspends Conservative Student Group (71)
    19:57 Le Tigre Sues Barry Mann To Stop Copyright Threats Over Song, Lights Barry Mann On Fire As Well (21)
    16:07 Court Says City Of Baltimore's 'Heckler's Veto' Of An Anti-Catholic Rally Violates The First Amendment (15)
    13:37 Two Years Later, Judge Finally Realizes That A CDN Provider Is Not Liable For Copyright Infringement On Websites (21)
    12:19 Chicago Court Gets Its Prior Restraint On, Tells Police Union Head To STFU About City's Vaccine Mandate (158)
    10:55 Verizon 'Visible' Wireless Accounts Hacked, Exploited To Buy New iPhones (8)
    10:50 Daily Deal: The MacOS 11 Course (0)
    07:55 Suing Social Media Sites Over Acts Of Terrorism Continues To Be A Losing Bet, As 11th Circuit Dumps Another Flawed Lawsuit (11)
    02:51 Trump Announces His Own Social Network, 'Truth Social,' Which Says It Can Kick Off Users For Any Reason (And Already Is) (100)
    19:51 Facebook AI Moderation Continues To Suck Because Moderation At Scale Is Impossible (26)
    16:12 Content Moderation Case Studies: Snapchat Disables GIPHY Integration After Racist 'Sticker' Is Discovered (2018) (11)
    13:54 Arlo Makes Live Customer Service A Luxury Option (8)
    12:05 Delta Proudly Announces Its Participation In The DHS's Expanded Biometric Collection Program (5)
    11:03 LinkedIn (Mostly) Exits China, Citing Escalating Demands For Censorship (14)
    10:57 Daily Deal: The Python, Git, And YAML Bundle (0)
    09:37 British Telecom Wants Netflix To Pay A Tax Simply Because Squid Game Is Popular (32)
    06:41 Report: Client-Side Scanning Is An Insecure Nightmare Just Waiting To Be Exploited By Governments (35)
    20:38 MLB In Talks To Offer Streaming For All Teams' Home Games In-Market Even Without A Cable Subscription (10)
    15:55 Appeals Court Says Couple's Lawsuit Over Bogus Vehicle Forfeiture Can Continue (15)
    13:30 Techdirt Podcast Episode 301: Scarcity, Abundance & NFTs (0)
    12:03 Hollywood Is Betting On Filtering Mandates, But Working Copyright Algorithms Simply Don't Exist (66)
    10:45 Introducing The Techdirt Insider Discord (4)
    10:40 Daily Deal: The Dynamic 2021 DevOps Training Bundle (0)
    09:29 Criminalizing Teens' Google Searches Is Just How The UK's Anti-Cybercrime Programs Roll (19)
    06:29 Canon Sued For Disabling Printer Scanners When Devices Run Out Of Ink (41)
    20:51 Copyright Law Discriminating Against The Blind Finally Struck Down By Court In South Africa (7)
    More arrow