The General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official edition, is hereby amended by inserting after chapter 93K the following chapter:-
Chapter 93L. Truth in advertising relative to internet access plans.
Section 1. Definitions
As used in this section, the following words shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly requires otherwise:-
“Internet service provider” (ISP) - a company that provides subscribers with internet access. Data may be transmitted using several technologies, including, but not limited to, dial-up, digital subscriber line (DSL), cable modem, wireless or dedicated high-speed interconnects.
“Speed plan” - an advertised internet access plan with a promised speed or range of speeds, generally measured in thousands of bits per second (Mbps) or millions of bits per second (Gbps).
“Wired service” - a connection from a modem to a user’s device via a cable.
“WiFI service” - a connection from a modem to a user’s device using a wireless router.
Section 2. Affirmative advertising obligations
An ISP is required to (a) describe internet speeds as wired service; (b) disclose that WiFi service speeds may vary; and (c) disclose the factors that might lead actual experience to vary, including based on the number of users and device limitations. This applies to all advertising and marketing of speeds, including television and other commercials, website and website communications, print ads, bill inserts, emails, and any other method used to solicit the sale of new or upgraded internet services.
Section 3. Substantiating internet speeds
(a) An ISP must substantiate internet speeds using an industry-accepted testing methodology, and discontinue any speed plan that cannot be substantiated. An ISP must substantiate speed plans no less frequently than four times per year by employing a statistically valid sampling methodology to determine the overall performance of each speed plan. No less than eighty percent of the sampled subscribers must be experiencing wired service internet speeds equal to or greater than the highest advertised speed for that speed plan between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on weekdays. Of the sampled subscribers not meeting the above threshold, each subscriber with an internet speed less than seventy-five percent of the highest advertised speed for that speed plan must be offered a free service call to diagnose and repair the causes of the internet speed not meeting the seventy-five percent threshold.
(b) The results of tests to substantiate internet speeds must be made public no less frequently than every three months by the last day of the month following the most recent three-month period in a report (i) published on the ISP’s website with a link prominently displayed on the ISP’s homepage, (ii) submitted to the department of telecommunications and cable, and (iii) submitted to the city or town clerks in the communities affected by the failure.
(c) All subscribers in the statistical sample that fail to meet the eighty-percent plan speed requirement must be included in the following three-month sample. Failure to meet speed requirements for ten or more of the same subscribers in two consecutive three-month periods will be deemed an ISP’s inability to substantiate that speed plan resulting in the discontinuance of that speed plan and any advertising thereof forthwith.
Section 4. Advertising prohibitions
(a) An ISP is prohibited from making unsubstantiated claims about (i) the speed required for particular internet activities like streaming; (ii) the reliability of the internet service (e.g., no buffering, no slowdowns); or (iii) the availability of the promised speed over WiFi.
(b) An ISP is also prohibited from describing internet speeds as “consistent” without fully satisfying the Federal Communications Commission Consistent Speed Metric and must make commercially reasonable efforts to deliver access to all online content and services featured in its advertisements.
Section 5. Equipment
An ISP is required to (a) provide subscribers with equipment, or recommend equipment to be purchased by subscribers, capable of delivering the advertised speed under typical network conditions when they commence service; (b) promptly offer to ship or install free replacements to all subscribers with inadequate equipment provided by an ISP via at least three different contact methods; and (c) implement rules to prevent subscribers from initiating or upgrading service without proper equipment for the chosen speed tiers.
Section 6. Sales and customer service training
An ISP must train customer service representatives and other employees to inform subscribers about the factors that affect internet speeds. An ISP must also maintain a video on its website to educate subscribers about various factors limiting internet speeds over WiFi.
Section 7. Establishment of regulations
The Department of Telecommunications and Cable shall promulgate regulations consistent with this chapter.
Section 8. Attorney general enforcement
Whenever the attorney general has reason to believe that any business, service provider, or other person is in violation of this chapter, and that proceedings would be in the public interest, the attorney general may bring an action in the name of the commonwealth against such person to restrain such violation by temporary restraining order or preliminary or permanent injunction. A violation of this chapter shall be considered an unfair or deceptive act or practice subject to the remedies of chapter 93A.
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