BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Verizon Modify, Discontinue Certain Comparative Superiority Claims for FiOS

Finds Company Can Support Claims to “America’s Fastest” Internet

New York, NY – Sept. 11, 2012 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Verizon modify certain broadcast advertising to avoid conveying the falsely disparaging, unsupported message that Internet service provided by cable companies is significantly slower than Verizon’s fiber-optic FiOS service.

However, NAD determined that Verizon can support claims to provide “America’s fastest, most consistent, and most reliable Internet.”

NAD is an investigative arm of the advertising industry’s self-regulatory system and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

NAD examined superior performance claims for Verizon’s FiOS and DSL Internet Services, following a challenge by Comcast Communications, Inc. The following claims, made in broadcast advertising, formed the basis of NAD’s inquiry:

• FiOS is the “only way to get America’s fastest, most consistent, and most reliable Internet.”
• With FiOS, the connection…”doesn’t slow down when everyone else is online.”
• DSL customers…receive “consistently fast speeds that won’t slow down because your neighbors are online.”
• DSL customers get a “dedicated connection at a great price” and “consistently fast” speeds.

In support of its superiority claims, the advertiser primarily relied on a report authored by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with the assistance of major Internet Service Providers (ISPs), on consumer broadband performance, including DSL, cable and fiber-to-the-home technologies, especially during times of peak consumer usage –  7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The purpose of the FCC report was to allow consumers to better compare the actual performance of ISPs by providing more accurate information about actual performance, concluding “[t]his Report and the accompanying data sets provide a useful foundation for a more comprehensive and ongoing assessment of broadband speeds and reliability, and are a key step in our continuing effort to improve the availability of information regarding broadband performance in the U.S.”

The FCC report indicated that FiOS provided the greatest percentage of sustained download speeds during peak periods.  For average peak period sustained speeds by advertised speed tier, for downloads up to 10 Mbps, Comcast delivered (on average across those tiers) far greater than 100 percent (and the greatest overall) of the advertised download rate and beyond 10 Mbps (when FiOS is measured), the results were  mixed – at 10 and 12 Mbps, FiOS offered among the greatest (but not “the” greatest) advertised speeds but took the lead at 15, 20, 25 and 35 Mbps (FiOS is alone at the 35 Mbps tier), with Comcast taking the lead at 22 Mbps.

For upload speeds, Comcast led at 4 Mbps, with FiOS taking the lead at 5 Mbps-35 Mbps.

As for performance by time of day, while many ISPs (including Verizon and Comcast) demonstrated average sustained download speeds at 100 percent or greater, there was no degradation in speed for FiOS at any time while competing services, particularly at peak hours, experienced a slowdown to varying degrees.

NAD noted that the FCC report was based on the “average measured performance across a range of consumers” and did not indicate how many users were downloading or uploading files (including at peak hours) in any given home.

Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD determined that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for its “America’s fastest, most consistent, and most reliable Internet” claim which was not rebutted by the challenger’s evidence.  However, NAD recommended that the advertisements be modified to avoid conveying the falsely disparaging, unsupported message that cable is significantly slower than FiOS.

With respect to the shared connection claims regarding FiOS, NAD determined that the claim that FiOS “is not shared with the neighborhood” could be confusing to consumers (who may reasonably interpret “neighborhood” to include 32 homes) and recommended that the claim be discontinued.

NAD also recommended that the advertising be modified to avoid conveying the unsupported message that cable is substantially slower because of the nature of its shared connection.

With respect to the shared connection claims as to DSL, NAD determined that the network architecture could be accurately described as a “dedicated line from our central office to your home” but recommended that the unqualified “dedicated connection” claim be discontinued.

Finally, NAD recommended that the “consistently fast” claims as to Verizon DSL be discontinued or modified to reflect that the speeds are “fast.”

Verizon, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “will take NAD’s recommendations into consideration in future advertising.”