AT&T Settles Lawsuit Over Slow DSL Speeds – Lawyer gets $11 million, most of you get two bucks…

… And isn’t this the way that these things almost always work out?

AT&T has agreed to settle a lawsuit over the company’s DSL speeds — or more specifically the DSL speeds many users didn’t get. The class action in question was filed last year, and accuses AT&T of “breaching its contracts with and defrauding some of its customers” by imposing speed limits on their DSL tiers well below the advertised speed. As part of the settlement (pdf) AT&T agrees to no wrong doing, and will pay a maximum of $100 million — depending on the total number of class action participants. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the attorney unsurprisingly gets the biggest reward:

Under the pending settlement, some customers may get $2.90 for each month the speed of their DSL service was capped below the maximum rate for the plan purchased. For a longtime customer, that could be several hundred dollars. Some people may get a one-time payment of only $2 if they were dissatisfied with their DSL speeds but don’t meet other terms of the settlement, such as the capping criteria. Individual payments will be based on AT&T account records. The Ohio plaintiff who started the lawsuit is getting a $10,000 “incentive award.” Perotti’s law firm will get up to $11 million plus $3.75 million for charities.

Any AT&T DSL customer who signed up for service after March 31, 1994 is qualified to apply for cash rewards, though again — only customers who had their DSL line capped at a speed lower than their advertised price will see any significant reward (perhaps a few hundred bucks). Many AT&T DSL customers can get $2 just for being unhappy with their speed for apparently any reason.

Many users sign up for a faster speed and AT&T caps users at a slower speed — should they find that the user’s copper loop length is too great or there’s a problem with the quality of the line itself. Since that’s hard to predict, most operators use the murky “up to” qualifier in ads as a loophole for potentially slower service. Should a user sign up for a faster tier and wind up on a slower one — they should be informed of this and obviously should pay the lower price.

As part of the settlement, AT&T has agreed to monitor its customers for 12 months “to ensure they are consistently receiving the Internet speeds they are paying for.” Of course beyond the physical speed limitations of the hardware and line this isn’t always under AT&T’s control, making this kind of a false promise. There’s some odd bits at the end of the Journal Sentinel story, where the author confuses speed caps with monthly consumption caps, and an analyst from Parks Associates informs the paper that he’s “not really convinced it matters that much” if users see their advertised speeds.
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