NAD Recommends Comcast Discontinue Unqualified ‘Fastest in the Nation’ Claims, Following Verizon Challenge

Finds Company Can Promote it is One of Three ISPs Designated Fastest in Nation by PC Magazine

New York, NY – June 12, 2012 – The National Advertising Division recommended that Comcast Communications Inc., discontinue unqualified claims that XFINITY Internet service is the  “fastest in the nation.”

However, NAD determined that Comcast could communicate that it is one of the fastest Internet Service Providers (ISP) 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 competitor Verizon FiOS service is not available.

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 express and implied superior performance claims, following a challenge by Verizon.  The following claims – all based on the results of a comprehensive ISP test done by PC Magazine – formed the basis of NAD’s inquiry:

•    “XFINITY is the fastest Internet service provider in the nation according to PC Mag.”
•    “It’s official.  We’re the fastest.”
•    “the fastest downloads available.”
•    “FiOS Does Not Live up to Expectations….With Speeds of Up to 105 Mbps, XFINITY was rated as the fastest Internet provider in the nation by PC Magazine.”
•    Implied Claims:
•    Comcast’s Internet speed offerings are faster than the Internet speeds that FiOS can offer.
•    Comcast has newly improved the speed of its Internet offerings to be faster than those of FiOS.
•    PC Magazine rated XFINITY Internet service faster than all nationwide and local Internet providers.
•    PC Magazine rated XFINITY Internet service faster than all other Internet providers across all areas where Comcast provides Internet service.

NAD noted in its decision that the widely read PC Magazine test was comprehensive in nature, used an industry-recognized broadband speed test and gathered more than 58,300 data points from speed tests from customers of major ISPs throughout the U.S. for a three-month period.

The magazine rated three ISPs as the “fastest” in the nation – Comcast, Cox and Charter Communications.  Of those three, Comcast had the fastest download speeds and Cox had the highest upload speeds.

However, NAD noted, the challenged advertisements did not reference the three-way split. Further, the advertising did not reflect Verizon’s reported standing in areas where its FiOS is available –“[i]t’s clear that FiOS’s speed floats Verizon above the rest,” the magazine reported.

NAD, in its decision, noted that it is uncontested that FiOS’s upload speeds are up to 35 Mbps and that its download speeds are up to 150 Mbps and, based on a broadband report published by the Federal Communication Commission, fiber’s sustained download speeds (especially at peak hours) exceed those of other ISPs, including Comcast.

NAD has previously determined that Comcast cannot, based on its current offerings, make an unqualified claim in national advertising to be faster than the competition.   NAD noted that while Comcast is the fastest Internet option for 94 percent of the 52 million households in its competitive footprint, it is not the fastest where FiOS is available.

NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the unqualified “fastest Internet service provider in the nation” claims, but noted that Comcast could make a qualified claim to be the fastest Internet option for most consumers in its footprint where FiOS is not available.

NAD recommended that in print and Internet advertising, the advertiser clearly and conspicuously disclose the reference to the PC magazine testing in immediate proximity to the triggering claims and in its commercials, include the reference to PC Magazine in a voiceover instead of a super.

NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim “FiOS Does Not Live up to Expectations….With Speeds of Up to 105 Mbps, XFINITY was rated as the fastest Internet provider in the nation by PC Magazine.”

Comcast, in its advertiser’s statement, said it will “take NAD’s recommendations into account in formulating its future advertising.”