Last week we pointed out
that for months Suddenlink has been charging users usage overages despite a constant stream of complaints by those users that the meters they're using aren't accurate. Users have consistently reported phantom usage that doesn't match their own logs, even in instances when the power is out
. After our story last week Suddenlink defended their meter to the press
, insisting that their own tests have "found that our meter is consistently accurate."
A few days later and the company appears to be not quite as certain.
Suddenlink now tells Light Reading
that after a review of some of the storm-related discrepancies we noted, they did apparently find problems with their meter's accuracy. As a result they're temporarily suspending their overage systems, giving users refunds, and bringing in a third party to test their meter accuracy. The company is providing the following statement on the matter:
Recently, a customer informed us that the Internet usage we measure is generally consistent with the usage he measures, with a major exception on a particular day. Because we take such questions seriously, we spent time analyzing the related information and circumstances, which included severe weather in the customers area and a temporary service outage.
We concluded that our measurement of this customers usage on the day in question was, in fact, inaccurate, although it did not result in the customer being billed.
Furthermore, while this customer was not billed and while the evidence indicates the situation was unusual, we value the relationship we have with our customers and want there to be no room for doubt about the integrity of our program. For those reasons, we will:
Issue credits to the accounts of the relatively small number of customers billed through this program to date
Waive future charges until we correct the cause of the inaccuracy and have our measurement system reviewed and validated across the board by a trusted third party.
While that's great that Suddenlink is issuing refunds for potentially-nonexistent usage, the fact remains that many North American ISPs (Rogers, Cogeco, AT&T) have rushed toward the overage model with dollar signs in their eyes without first ensuring their system worked properly. While Suddenlink plays this off as an isolated incident, threads in our forums
suggest it's not so isolated.
The fact also remains that "trusted third parties" hired by the company doing the billing shouldn't be confirming meter accuracy, regulators should be. If ISPs want to bill like utilities, they should be regulated like utilities. Unfortunately regulators like the FTC and FCC remain utterly comatose at the consumer protection wheel.