BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – New York Attorney Eric Schneiderman believes his lawsuit against Time Warner Cable and its successor–Charter Communications and its Internet service known as Spectrum–could have the greatest impact in Western New York, due to the limited choices Western New Yorkers have for getting on the Internet.

Schneiderman filed a civil action against the nation’s second-largest cable company Wednesday, accusing Charter and Time Warner of cheating customers by charging premium prices for high speed Internet service, but the actual speed that consumers received came up woefully short.

The Attorney General held a news conference in his Buffalo office, Thursday, to make sure Western New Yorkers are aware of what he calls a corporate rip-off by Charter Communications, and Time Warner Cable because, unlike New York City which has many Internet service providers, when Upstate New York consumers want to go online–in most places–Time Warner Cable is the only show in town.

Over the last 16 months, Schneiderman’s office has investigated Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) across the state of New York, and came down hard on Time Warner Cable, and the company that bought them out, Connecticut-based Charter Communications, whose Internet service is called Spectrum.

“The allegations in our lawsuit confirm what millions of New Yorkers have long suspected,” said Schneiderman, “Spectrum/Time Warner has been ripping you off.”

The Attorney General’s findings include allegations Time Warner Cable/Spectrum charged customers top dollar for high speed Internet, but tests showed actual speeds were much less–in some cases less than half of what was promised.

Schneiderman said Time Warner Cable and Charter executives were even warned by their engineers the equipment they used was incapable of delivering on their promises, “One of the most important findings in our investigation was that many subscribers were experiencing very slow speeds because the company had leased them severely outdated modems that made it impossible to achieve the speed they were promised.”

The Attorney General’s office received hundreds of complaints from Time Warner Cable/Spectrum customers across the state, and Chuck Bell, Programs Director for Consumers Union said they also got an earful, “Meredith from New York City said, ‘my Internet service is awful. It would be better powered by a hamster on wheels’.”

Schneiderman also claims Charter not only lied to their customers, they misled the state Public Service Commission, when they agreed to upgrade their cable and Internet services to get their purchase of Time Warner Cable approved, “Now they are on notice they cannot roll out a phony 200 Mbps plan, or a phony 300 Mb plan, so this does have consequences.”

Schneiderman said he is demanding Charter make the needed improvements to its infrastructure and equipment to deliver the high speed Internet that they have promised. He also aims to get consumers their money back from the overcharges, which could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Attorney General has also posted a guide to help consumers decide the best Internet service plan to fit your needs, which has links to free software for testing the speed of your Internet connection.