WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and several states filed a lawsuit against Frontier Communications on Wednesday, accusing them of lying about internet speeds, in one of the first cases the regulator has overseen since net neutrality rules were repealed.
In the complaint, the agency and state attorneys general said Frontier advertised internet via a digital subscriber line (DSL) at certain speeds to consumers but then failed to deliver.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The FTC was joined on the lawsuit by attorneys general from Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin. District attorneys' offices from two California counties also joined the complaint to represent California.
A spokesperson for Frontier, which is emerging from bankruptcy protection, said that the lawsuit was "without merit."
"Frontier’s DSL Internet speeds have been clearly and accurately articulated, defined and described in the company's marketing materials and disclosures," the spokesperson said.
The complaint said Frontier has more than 3 million U.S. internet service subscribers, offering internet via DSL to some 1.3 million consumers in 25 states, many in rural areas.
Frontier has advertised different tiers of speeds to consumers, including an August 2018 mailer that offered download speeds of 12 megabits per second for $12, the complaint said.
But, the complaint said, since 2015, Frontier has "in numerous instances" promised certain speeds for its DSL internet access but did not deliver.
"Indeed, network limits imposed by Frontier prevent numerous
consumers from receiving DSL Internet service at speeds corresponding to the tiers of service they pay for," the complaint said.
Acting FTC Chairwoman Rebecca Slaughter said her agency would do its best to take over monitoring broadband providers from the Federal Communications Commission.
"As important as this case is, it also shows why the FTC can never fully fill the regulatory gap left in the wake of the repeal of Net Neutrality," she said on Twitter. "Active oversight by the proper regulator may have prevented these violations."
(Reporting by Diane Bartz in WashingtonEditing by Matthew Lewis and Chizu Nomiyama)