Customers getting burned by slow Internet speeds

SEATTLE -- We live in a high-speed age, but a Problem Solvers investigation found Internet providers, on average, are failing to give customers the speed they're paying for.

But there is a way for customers to get faster speeds or get their money back, and sometimes both.

Steve Whitford and his family are CenturyLink customers and say their Internet is running at a snail's pace.

"It made me mad enough to want to do something about it. I'm old and I'm cranky and I've got all kinds of time," Whitford said.

In fact, Whitford's entire neighborhood on the Key Peninsula is having serious Internet problems.

"Sometimes it works, sometimes it don't. And when it don't, that's it," said CenturyLink customer Pete Peterman.

CenturyLink officials say a recent upgrade should fix the problem, but connections are so bad right now that some customers can't even pay their CenturyLink bill online.

The Whitfords say their incoming Internet speed is just 288 kilobytes per second, despite the fact they're paying for a higher speed.

"768 high speed Internet right there," said Heather Whitford Abee. "That's not what we get."

Tim Grigar is CenturyLink's general manager in Western Washington. KOMO News asked him if the Whitfords should be getting 768 kilobytes per second.

"Uh, no," he said. "It wouldn't necessarily without making a change in the network to enable it."

He means customers have to call to get someone to throw a switch, and customers don't often call when there's a problem.

"But we certainly do not want any customers paying for something they're not getting. That's not our intent," Grigar said.

The problem of buying high speed Internet and getting slow speed Internet is a problem not just on the Key Peninsula, but a lot of places around the country from a lot of different Internet service providers.

A government report found Internet service providers delivered only 87 percent of advertised speeds in 2011.

This year that number jumped to 96 percent, while CenturyLink remained at about 90 percent of advertised speeds.

Experts say customers shouldn't always believe it when Internet providers blame computers for slower speeds. They advice customers to test their incoming speed themselves online and go to their provider armed with facts.

That's exactly what the Whitford family did.

When confronted with the facts,. Whitford said the company gave him a $149 credit.

Grigar also said CenturyLink will review customer bills and consider upgrading their services without increasing their bill.

Find out which Internet service providers failed to meet their advertised speeds here.

Test your speed here or here.