MANHATTAN (CN) - Time Warner Cable must face a class action alleging that it deliberately "throttles" its Road Runner Internet service to frustrate subscribers using peer-to-peer networks, a federal judge ruled.
Lead plaintiffs Jessica Fink and Brett Noia said they signed up with Time Warner, and paid up to 100 percent more than competitors charged, because of misleading advertisements about Road Runner's "blazing speed" that made it the "fastest, easiest way to get online." Even the Road Runner name hearkens to the Warner Brothers cartoon character known for its lightning speed.
Time Warner assured customers that its service offered "up to 3 times the speed of most standard DSL packages and up to 100x faster than dial-up so your family can spend their time on the computer learning, experiencing, and playing - instead of waiting," according to one ad quoted in the complaint.
Because of Road Runner's fast connection, Time Warner charged more than double the fees that its competitors charged, according to the complaint. But subscribers say they soon learned Time Warner intentionally uses tactics to limit bandwidth, a practice known as "throttling," when users try to share online content via peer-to-peer (or P2P) file-sharing networks like BitTorrent, Gnutella and Skype.
Time Warner allegedly designed the "throttling" to steer consumers to paid content while frustrating access to similar content available for free elsewhere on the Internet, and avoiding the costs of infrastructure upgrades.
The proposed class representatives say they would not have paid the extra premiums if they had known Road Runner would interfere with their Internet service.
Noia said the throttling interfered with his work as a freelance designer, which required him to upload and download large image and vector files.
To get the files he needed, Noia allegedly had to drive to a Kinkos and pay to rent their computers.
Fink and Noia said they had trouble using Skype to make free phone calls, and wasted time rebooting their computers trying to repair the connections that they did not realize were being thwarted by Road Runner.
U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain gave the green light to two of their claims of computer fraud on Wednesday, but she dismissed several other counts.
Attorneys for both parties did not immediately reply to phone requests for comment.
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