Verizon-Comcast Broadband Ad Spat Heats Up

Verizon declines to participate in proceeding over claims that National Advertising Division has conflict of interest in case
Broadband image 450x345.jpg

The National Advertising Division said Tuesday that it has referred advertising claims made by Verizon Communications raised by Comcast to the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission for further review after Verizon declined to participate in the a proceeding before the NAD.

Comcast has challenged a litany of marketing claims made by Verizon regarding its internet speeds, including positioning statements holding that the telco offers “Fastest Internet Available,” that “Only Fios has the Fastest Internet Available;” “Only Fios gives you equal upload and download speeds,” and that the telco is “a 100% Fiber Optic Network which means the fastest Internet and WiFi available.”

Verizon said it declined to participate in the proceeding over allegations that the NAD has a conflict of interest in the case.

Here is Verizon’s full statement:

“Verizon offers the fastest Internet available in all markets where Fios competes.  We've participated in countless NAD matters over the years and have never before encountered a situation requiring the company to decline to participate in this voluntary self-regulatory process. 

Although we offered to respond to Comcast's frivolous complaint in the NAD process, NAD refused to resolve a conflict of interest caused by their former assistant director who participated on prior Verizon cases now representing Comcast on substantially similar matters.

Verizon regrets that NAD was unwilling to address this fundamental unfairness and we will happily demonstrate our performance superiority in a neutral and proper forum.”

NAD said Verizon respectfully declined to participate in the proceeding and “consequently did not provide a substantive response to Comcast’s challenge.”  NAB is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

NAD declined to comment on Verizon's claim, noting that the decision spoke for itself. That decision also factored in implied claims by Verizon that, in head-to-head speed tier competitions, Verizon Fios delivers the fastest internet, and that Verizon’s fiber network delivers superior performance over Comcast's network. 

Among Comcast’s challenges to Verizon’s claims, the cable operator held the telco’s positioning of Fios as the “fastest internet available” doesn’t hold up against FCC studies on individual service tiers, and that Verizon’s claim that only Fios offers “equal upload and download speeds” is false because Comcast’s FTTP-based Gigabit Pro service delivers symmetrical speeds of 2 Gbps.

Comcast is also fighting Verizon’s claim that Fios is “PC Magazine’s #1 For Internet Speed 10 Years Running,” claiming it’s “misleading because it suggests that Verizon is the current holder of the award when Verizon is not, in fact, the top performer.”

Verizon and Comcast tied for that distinction among major ISPs in PC Mag’s 2016 study, and Hotwire took those honors in a similar study released earlier this month.

RELATED: Hotwire Has Fastest Wire Among ‘Major’ ISPs: PCMag Study

Comcast and Verizon have butted heads over broadband advertising before. In February, Comcast agreed to comply with a decision by a panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) recommending that the operator stop using certain claims in advertising that Xfinity delivers “delivers the fastest internet in America,” and the “fastest in-home WiFi.”

RELATED: Comcast to Halt Use of ‘Fastest’ Internet, In-Home WiFi Ad Claims