ALBANY - State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman made headlines this week when he sued Spectrum-Time Warner Cable, accusing the company of promising internet speeds it couldn't deliver.
The company is the biggest internet provider in New York with about 2.6 million total cable, internet and phone subscribers across the state.
Schneiderman's lawsuit focused primarily on those who were paying extra for faster internet, saying the company -- which merged with Charter Communications last year -- couldn't meet the promised speeds.
Charter, meanwhile, has already pledged to boost speeds in New York as part of its merger approval last year.
So what kind of questions should you ask when seeking internet service?
Schneiderman laid out some suggestions in a consumer alert Thursday.
1) What do you use the Internet for?
At a news conference in Buffalo on Thursday, Schneiderman recommended consumers take stock of what kind of activities you need the internet for.
Depending on what you use the internet for, you may need more or less juice.
"If you're going to be streaming a lot of video, you may need a faster connection," Schneiderman said at a news conference Thursday in Buffalo.
"But if you mostly use your home internet to check email and the news, you probably don't need to spend so much on a high-cost, high-speed connection."
2) How much speed do you need?
If you're using the internet to play games or watch movies, your subscription-based services will likely have a recommended baseline for internet service.
Watch streaming videos in high definition? Netflix recommends a connection of at least 5 megabits per second.
Play online video games on Xbox Live? You need 3 megabits per second, according to Microsoft.
Remember, though: If your household uses multiple devices at once, you may need more megabits to keep up.
And speeds on WiFi are slower than when you're plugged directly into the modem.
3) What equipment do you have?
Check your modem and wireless router to ensure they can handle the speeds you're seeking or paying for.
Schneiderman accused Time Warner of providing consumers with outdated rental modems that couldn't handle the speeds they were promised.
The company would replace outdated modems -- but it was up to the customer to make it happen, he said.
"You can contact the company, and they did make a commitment to replace outdated modems," Schneiderman said. "But they put the burden on the consumer to take that step."
Schneiderman urged customers to contact their internet-service provider and make sure their equipment is up to date.
4) Well -- how fast is it?
Once you are hooked up to the internet, Schneiderman said it's important to periodically test your speed to see if you're getting what you're paying for.
There are a number of free, online tools to check your upload, download and ping rates.
Schneiderman recommended three: InternetHealthTest.org, speedtest.net and dslreports.com/speedtest.
Schneiderman visited Buffalo Thursday to talk about the lawsuit. He says reliable internet access is not a luxury, it's a necessity.
Schneiderman says Time Warner has more than 570,000 subscribers in Western New York.
Part of what Schneiderman wanted to do Thursday was to help people figure out what internet speed they need in order to use their devices.
"If you have say four devices streaming Netflix at the same time, you need 20-megabits per second service just to make sure you have a reliable connection for that streaming on those devices," he said.
Many of you want to know if you will get your money back. The AG addressed that saying the state is going to find out from Time Warner who paid what so that they know how much money people would be owed.
"We are going to seek restitution for consumers and we are going to, going forward, hold them accountable for upgrading their services, so it's really a combination of relief for consumers for past and on-going misconduct, but also holding them to the standards that they set forth themselves in their plans," says Schneiderman.
Higher speed plans are supposed to be available soon upstate. Since many people here can only get Time Warner internet, there are concerns about that rollout.
"They provide higher speed plans in New York City than they currently do to the rest of the state. They are supposed to, under their agreement with the Public Service Commission, be rolling out those higher speed plans in the rest of the state. We're going to make sure they do it the right way. Now they're on notice that they can't roll out a phony 200-megabit plan or a phony 300-megabit plan. So this does have consequences," said Schneiderman.
Schneiderman did not say how long it would take before the state knows how much money Time Warner would owe each customer if the state wins the lawsuit.
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