Internet Service Stiffs Country Folk, Says Class

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Hughes Communications dupes rural customers into signing up for its spotty Internet service with promises of fast access and download speeds and then charges hundreds of dollars if they drop coverage, according to a federal class action.




     Tina Walters says she signed up for the company’s Internet service, lured by its claims that its broadband satellite technology brings rural areas services that operate at speeds comparable to DSL hook-ups, making it possible for customers to download “large files in minutes, not hours.”
     But Walters says she suffers “significantly slow, even non-existent, access and upload and download speeds.” And she says that instead of fixing the problem, Hughes charged for service upgrades, but the pricier service remains spotty and slow.
     Hughes tries to disclaim its own advertising by inserting exculpatory clauses in the fine print of subscriber agreements, such as, “stated speeds not guaranteed,” which contradicts its own advertisements and, Walters says, and does not release it from liability for false advertising.
     Walters, who says the class includes 80,000 rural customers, claims Hughes charges hundreds of dollars if customers want to discontinue the shoddy service before their subscriptions end.
     She seeks damages for unfair competition and false advertising. The class is represented by Robert Bramson with Bramson, Plutzik and Mahler.

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