National Advertising Division upbraids Verizon for broadband speed claims

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council told Verizon (NYSE: VZ) it should modify its broadband 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."

NAD had examined the claims after a complaint from Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) and, while decreeing Verizon's claims may be a bit much, determined that the telco can support claims that it provides "America's fastest, most consistent and most reliable Internet" as long as it doesn't disparage cable companies.

Verizon had based its claims on an FCC report on consumer broadband performance during peak times of 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, which it claimed showed its superiority over cable speeds. NAD, in arriving at its conclusion, pointed out that the report showed things were a lot closer than they seemed, and thus Verizon's claims should be toned down. For average peak period sustained speeds by advertised speed tier, Comcast delivered "far greater than 100 percent (and the greatest overall) of the advertised download rate and beyond 10 Mbps," NAD concluded.

FiOS results in the FCC report, it added, were "mixed," noting that "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 … with Comcast taking the lead at 22 Mbps."

Having reviewed how Verizon arrived at its claims, the advertising investigative arm determined that it was reasonable for Verizon to claim it is the "fastest, most convenient and most reliable Internet," but that its message that cable is "significantly slower" couldn't be supported.

NAD also determined that Verizon's claim that FiOS is not a shared network "could be confusing to consumers (who may reasonably interpret "neighborhood" to include 32 homes)." That claim, the organization said, should be discontinued.

In a final recommendation, NAD also recommended that the "consistently fast" claims about Verizon DSL be discontinued or changed to reflect that the speeds are just plain old "fast."

Verizon, NAD said, issued an advertiser's statement that it "will take NAD's recommendations into consideration in future advertising."

For more:
- the National Advertising Division issued this news release

Related articles:
Verizon slightly tops Cablevision for FCC's top broadband spot
Verizon, Cablevision top FCC Measuring Broadband America Report