According to BBB files, Windstream Communications, Inc. has a pattern of consumer complaints alleging slow or inferior Internet speeds. Consumers typically allege that the Internet speeds provided by Windstream are slower than those advertised by the company and that attempts to resolve Internet speed issues directly with the company are unsuccessful.
Windstream has responded to some complaints stating that it cannot guarantee error-free, uninterrupted service and that service performance will vary based on factors such as computer member, age of the computer, and Internet congestion. The company has responded to other complaints by stating that it is aware of Internet traffic issues in a consumer's area and that it is working diligently to resolve Internet speed issues by installing new equipment and system upgrades.
Windstream has responded to BBB request for a response to the allegations presented by consumers by explaining on-going upgrades that include a combination of network equipment supported by copper-fed and fiber-fed wires, depending on the location of the customer. In 2013, Windstream spent approximately $80M to upgrade and plans to upgrade approximately 85% of its customers.
Windstream states that in an effort to address the other 15% of their customers in copper-fed areas, they have applied for funding from the FCC for funds from Connect America Fund (CAF) and plans to match this funding to support projects for under-served areas to begin construction in early 2015.
Customers who will not benefit from upgrades will be given option of migrating to satellite broadband or Internet Access, which utilizes copper-fed areas. Internet Access is provisioned at 1Mbps, is an "AS-IS" services and is sold at a $7.50 discount.
BBB has seen a decrease in complaint volume since meeting with Windstream regarding these specific issues.
The following describes a government action that has been resolved by either a settlement or a decision by a court or administrative agency. If the matter is being appealed, it will be noted below.
On February 24, 2014 Windstream Communications Inc. entered into a a $600,000 settlement with the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Protection (GOCP) over allegations of false advertising.
GOCP alleges that:
1. Windstream advertised that it would provide certain Internet speeds to its customers that it could not provide and/or guarantee, particularly for Georgia consumers whose network equipment is supported by copper-fed wires.
2. When customers called Windstream to complain about slow Internet speeds, Windstream representatives allegedly misrepresented the time frame within which the customers' Internet speed issues would be resolved, or, in the case of customers whose equipment is supported by copper-fed wires, failed to tell customers that it was unable to resolve the issue.
3. Some of Windstream's "Lifetime Price Guarantee bundle" advertisements falsely implied that the advertised offer included high-speed Internet packages with speeds of "up to 12 Mbps"
4. Windstream also allegedly advertised a free 6-month "Hulu Plus" subscription but did not clearly disclose that consumers who failed to cancel the subscription at or before the 6-month period would be charged membership fees every month thereafter, until the membership was cancelled.
In resolution of these allegations, Windstream will pay a total of $600,000, which includes a $175,000 civil penalty, $175,000 in administrative fees and expenses, and $250,000 in "cy pres" restitution to be used for the purchase of new computer equipment for the Technical College System of Georgia.
Windstream has represented to the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Protection that it is in the process of investing approximately $14 million to upgrade its fiber-supported areas in Georgia. In addition, Windsteam is seeking federal funding as well as exploring other options for upgrading the Internet service for consumers who are served by network equipment supported by copper-fed wires.
In an Order dated February 24, 2014, the Chief of the Enforcement Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Consent Decree between the FCC and Windstream Corporation (Windstream).
In the Consent Decree entered into in the Matter of Windstream Communications (File No. EB IHD 13 00011781) Windstream agreed to comply with Orders issued by the FCC pursuant to the FCC's Rural Call Completion Order issued on October 28, 2013, which concerned itself with "rural call completion problems" that resulted in "significant and immediate public interest ramifications, causing rural businesses to lose customers, cutting families off from their relatives in rural areas and creating potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications in rural areas."
In the Consent Decree Windstream agreed to, among other things, to appoint a Compliance Officer to ensure implementation of a compliance plan for implementing the Decree, change procedures, develop a Compliance Manual, establish training programs, and it agreed to make a voluntary contribution to the United States Treasury in the amount of $2,500,000.