Internet service provider Frontier Communications reached a tentative legal settlement valued at nearly $70 million with Los Angeles County and other plaintiffs over false advertising and related civil violations stemming from the company’s failure to provide customers with high-speed service, it was announced Thursday.
The lawsuit, initiated by the Federal Trade Commission and joined by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, as well as the Riverside County D.A.’s Office, was filed a year ago in U.S. District Court following a monthslong investigation in California.
The Riverside County D.A.’s Consumer Protection Unit took the lead in prosecuting the case.
The agency said that the settlement, pending approval by U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner in Los Angeles, proposes $8.57 million in civil penalties, with a separate $250,000 expected to be distributed to Frontier customers statewide in unspecified small amounts to mitigate the inconveniences they endured due to Frontier’s misrepresentations.
The heart of the settlement, however, is the proposed deployment of fiber optic — high-speed — internet connections to an estimated 60,000 residences throughout the state, an investment valued at close to $60 million, according to prosecutors.
Frontier provides digital subscriber line Internet service to about 1.3 million consumers, many in rural areas, across 25 states including California.
Attorneys general in Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin had originally signed on as co-plaintiffs. However, last October, Klausner dismissed their claims due to jurisdictional disputes.
Frontier did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the settlement.
Prosecutors said that Frontier offered customers various digital subscriber line “tiers” guaranteeing fast internet connectivity. However, going back to January 2015, complaints began flowing to Frontier and government agencies that the company was not delivering the promised services, according to the D.A.’s office.
“Many consumers complained that slower internet speeds provided by Frontier failed to support typical online activities that should have been available at the speed tiers sold to them,” the agency said in its announcement of the lawsuit last year.
The FTC gathered evidence and ultimately determined that the Norwalk, Connecticut-based telecommunications company had allegedly violated the FTC Act.
“Consumers must receive the internet service they are paying for,” L.A. County District Attorney George GascÃ³n said when the suit was filed. “We will not stand by while consumers fulfill their end of the contract and companies fail to fulfill theirs.”