NAD Recommends Comcast Discontinue ‘Fastest Internet’ Claims, ‘Fastest … In-Home Wi-Fi’ Claims in Certain Contexts; Comcast to Appeal

New York, NY – Aug. 9, 2016 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Comcast Communications, Inc., discontinue certain claims for the company’s XFINITY service, including claims XFINITY “delivers the fastest internet in America,” and the “fastest, most reliable in-home WiFi,” as it appears in certain contexts. Comcast said it will appeal NAD’s decision to the National Advertising Review Board.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Advertising claims made by Comcast were challenged by Verizon Communications, Inc., a competing provider of telecommunication services.  The following claims are representative of those that served as the basis for NAD’s inquiry:

  •  “XFINITY from Comcast delivers America’s fastest Internet according to 60 million consumer tests run at Speedtest.net. Faster than the competition. FiOS just can’t keep up.” “Based on 2015 Speedtest.net testing. Speedtest.net/awards/us. Actual speeds vary.”
  • “XFINITY Internet delivers the fastest, most reliable in-home WiFi … WiFi claim based on November 2014 study by Allion Test Labs, Inc.”
  • XFINITY “Fastest in-home WiFi speed 725 Mbps” … “WiFi claim based on November 2014 study by Allion Test Labs, Inc.”
  • FIOS “in-home WiFi speed  . . . 610 Mbps” … “WiFi claim based on November 2014 study by Allion Test Labs, Inc.”
  • “Unsurpassed HD picture quality” … “HD picture quality claim based on November 2012 study by Marketing Systems Group.”
  • Verizon is “eliminating its traditional home phone service in certain markets.”
  • “Verizon is discontinuing its copper-wire based home phone service.”

NAD has reviewed many claims regarding the internet speed offerings of internet service providers (ISPs).  Many households have numerous computers and, consequently, upload and download speeds are of increasing importance to consumers and a key selling point for advertisers. At issue in this case is whether there is a good fit between Comcast’s unqualified fastest internet speed claim and its supporting evidence: crowd-sourced data (and an “award” given by the third party which collected that data).  NAD noted in its decision that even where methodology is reliable for one purpose, it may not be sufficient substantiation for advertising claims made in a different context. 

Here, NAD noted that although XFINITY offers a variety of speeds at a range of prices and tiers, Comcast’s advertising does not limit its claims to a particular tier.

NAD determined that the claims at issue in both print and broadcast advertising reasonably conveyed a message of overall superiority – that regardless of which speed tier purchased by a consumer, in a head-to-head comparison, XFINITY would deliver faster speeds.

As support for its claims that XFINITY delivers America’s “fastest Internet,” Comcast relied on crowdsourced data from Ookla’s “Speedtest” application.  Ookla’s “Speedtest” is an application which consumers download on their mobile devices and can run to measure their current upload and download speeds. Ookla’s “fastest Internet in America” award is based on a different methodology than previous NAD cases involving superior speed claims, but is also intended to show the “top-end performance of a given ISP.”

However, NAD noted in its decision, instead of relying on an aggregation of crowdsourced data on download and upload speeds, Ookla based its award on the top 10 percent of each ISP’s Speedtest download results.

NAD determined that Ookla’s methodology wasn’t a good fit for the purposes of substantiating Comcast’s overall superior speed performance claim that “XFINITY delivers the fastest Internet in America.” NAD recommended the claim be discontinued.

Following its review of the claim “fastest in-home WiFi,” NAD determined that in some contexts, the challenged claim conveyed the message that Comcast offered the fastest available wireless access to the internet (internet speed + router speed) and determined that consumers are likely to understand that the “fastest in-home WiFi” claim, standing alone, to mean that XFINITY’s wireless routers provided faster speed.

In those advertisements where the claim “fastest in-home WiFi” reasonably conveyed to consumers the unsupported message that Comcast offers the fastest available wireless access to the internet, NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued.  NAD further recommended that Comcast discontinue claims that XFINITY delivers in-home WiFi speed of 725 Mbps, while FiOS only delivers a speed of 610 Mbps, which were based on testing.

Although Comcast provided a reasonable basis for a claim that XFINITY provides faster in-home WiFi than FiOS, based on router speed testing, NAD recommended that Comcast expressly modify future claims to make clear that only users of 5GHz (or dual) band devices would experience the superior performance claimed.

In reliance on the advertiser’s representation that its claims that XFINITY offers “unsurpassed HD picture quality” have been permanently discontinued, NAD did not review the claims on their merits.  The voluntarily discontinued claims will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended their discontinuance and the advertiser agreed to comply.

NAD determined that Comcast’s direct-mail advertisement, which claimed that “Verizon is eliminating its traditional home phone service in certain markets” and that “Verizon is discontinuing its copper wire-based home phone service,” was potentially confusing to consumers and recommended that it be discontinued or modified to accurately communicate that Verizon is changing the way it is delivering, rather than eliminating, phone service to consumers.

Comcast, in its advertiser’s statement, said it “disagrees with NAD’s decision and is appealing to the NARB.”

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.