Ad Group: Comcast Can Keep Claiming Better HD, Faster Internet Than AT&T

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Comcast can support its claims that it has better HD picture quality and faster broadband than AT&T's U-verse, according to an industry self-regulatory body -- but the cable operator properly discontinued an ad campaign that said the telco's services run over "old phone wires."

The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, in a statement Thursday, found that while Comcast could support a claim to superior linear HD picture quality it had no basis for the claim that AT&T's U-verse provides poor HD picture quality. The NAD also noted Comcast's evidence did not address HD video-on-demand content.

In addition, NAD said Comcast reserved the right to claim in its advertising that it delivers faster Internet speeds than AT&T and that the telco is unable to deliver its top advertised broadband speeds to U-verse subscribers.

However, NAD -- acting on a complaint by AT&T -- recommended that Comcast discontinue in future advertising certain claims that were featured as part its comparative "Tired Wires," advertising campaign. Those ads featured an animatronic character that "appeared to be a pained or exhausted tangle of wires" that represented AT&T's U-verse service, and the campaign included such claims as: "U-verse's old phone wires can't handle what Xfinity can."

Comcast said the Tired Wires campaign, which began running over a year before AT&T filed its challenge with the NAD, was largely complete at the time AT&T filed its challenge and had since been phased out.

Following its review, NAD recommended that Comcast discontinue its references to AT&T's U-verse network as a "bunch of old phone wires" and also that the MSO permanently discontinue the use of the claim "advanced fiber optic network" to describe its own hybrid network.

Comcast said in a statement that it "disagrees with NAD's concerns regarding the likely consumer takeaway with respect to certain of its advertisements; however, those advertisements have not been in rotation for many months and Comcast does not intend to reinstate them in that form. As a strong supporter of the self-regulatory process, Comcast will take into account NAD's concerns should it reinstate such advertising in the future."

AT&T said in a statement, "We're pleased with NAD's thorough review of the case."

According to the NAD, the Internet speed tests submitted by Comcast and AT&T supported the cable operator's argument that AT&T U-verse is unable to deliver its top Internet speeds to a U-verse subscriber who is watching two or more HD programs. But the ad group said the Comcast claims that AT&T U-verse subscribers will experience Internet speed degradation should be limited to the top two tiers as well as note the circumstances for such degradation.

But NAD determined that Comcast could not support the broad implied claims that U-verse Internet is slow and always slower than Comcast and recommended the MSO make the basis for the Internet speed comparisons clear in the main claims rather than in a fine-print disclosure.

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