Comcast Should Pull 'Fastest In Nation' Broadband Claim, Ad Group Says

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Comcast should stop making the unqualified claim that its Xfinity Internet service is the "fastest in the nation," the Council of Better Business Bureaus' National Advertising Division ruled following a complaint by Verizon Communications.

However, NAD found that Comcast can back up a claim that it is one of the three fastest Internet service providers in the nation, according to a 2011 PC Magazine study, or claim that it is the fastest Internet option for most consumers in its service areas where Verizon's FiOS service is not available.

Comcast said in a statement that it "will take NAD's recommendations into account in formulating its future advertising."

The advertising dispute is the latest contretemps between Comcast and Verizon, which have butted heads over a variety of claims in the past.

In September 2011, acting on a Verizon complaint, NAD found that Comcast could not make an unqualified claim in national advertising to be faster than competitors and also recommended that the MSO change or discontinue claims it provides the "best HD picture quality" and is "#1 in call clarity." In December 2011, the NAD said Verizon should discontinue its claim that "FiOS TV rates #1 in HD picture quality" after Comcast complained.

According to Comcast, the MSO is the fastest Internet option for 94% of the 52 million households in the cable company's footprint. It offers a top speed of 105 Megabits per second across its footprint.

But that was not enough for the NAD to find that the MSO could make the blanket assertion that it was "the fastest Internet service provider in the nation." That claim was based on ISP testing conducted by PC Magazine, which compiled more than 58,300 data points from speed tests by customers of major ISPs throughout the U.S. over a three-month period. The magazine rated three ISPs as the "fastest" in the nation: Comcast, Cox Communications and Charter Communications. Of those three, Comcast had the fastest download speeds and Cox had the highest upload speeds.

However, the Comcast ads in dispute didn't mention that Cox and Charter were also rated "fastest" in the U.S., nor did they reflect that Verizon's FiOS is faster than Comcast's top broadband tier.

In its decision, NAD noted that FiOS's current top download speeds are up to 150 Mbps and upload speeds are up to 35 Mbps. In addition, the group cited the Federal Communication Commission's broadband report finding that fiber-to-the-home services provide sustained download speeds (especially at peak hours) that exceed those of other ISPs, including Comcast.

Comcast's "manner of promoting its Xfinity service and disparaging Verizon FiOS was not only misleading, but plain false," Verizon director of media relations Bill Kula said Tuesday. "We're gratified of the NAD decision that will help set the record straight in terms of how Comcast describes its services and communicates about Verizon FiOS."

Verizon is preparing to launch FiOS Internet service with a top speed of 300 Mbps, Kula noted. More than half of the telco's FiOS residential consumers already use at least a 20 Mbps Internet connection, he added.

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