NARB Recommends Comcast Discontinue ‘Fastest Internet,’ ‘Fastest … In-Home Wi-Fi’ Claims

New York, NY – Feb. 8 , 2016 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that Comcast Communications, Inc., discontinue certain claims for the company’s XFINITY service, including claims that XFINITY “delivers the fastest internet in America,” and the “fastest in-home WiFi.”

The NARB is the appellate 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 initially challenged by Verizon Communications, Inc., a competing provider of telecommunication services, before the National Advertising Division (NAD), an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation.

NAD reviewed claims that included:

  • “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.”
  • “XFINITY Internet delivers the fastest in-home WiFi …”

Following its review, NAD recommended Comcast discontinue claims that included “America’s fastest internet,” and, in certain contexts, the claim “fastest in-home WiFi.”

The NARB panel noted in its decision that Comcast and Verizon offer consumers different tiers of service based on the maximum internet download and upload speeds provided and that pricing for each tier of service generally increases as the maximum internet download or upload speeds increase.

The panel found that claims an ISP offers the fastest internet, without clearly communicating what “fastest” means, can be subject to a number of reasonable interpretations by consumers. The panel determined that one of the messages reasonably conveyed by the challenged “America’s fastest internet” claims is that XFINITY had overall internet speed superiority in all tiers of service that it provides. The panel further determined that the challenged advertisements reasonably conveyed a message that XFINITY delivers the fastest download and upload speeds.

Comcast’s “America’s fastest internet” claims were based on crowdsourced data from Ookla for the period January 1, 2015 through June 30, 2015. This data was derived from Ookla’s free website (Speedtest.net) where consumers can test their internet download and upload speeds.

The Ookla data identified the top 10 percent download speeds for each ISP based on 60 million tests by consumers who visited the Speedtest.net website during the first half of 2015. Ookla found that the top 10 percent of XFINITY consumers had download speeds of at least 104.56 Mbps, and the top 10 percent of Verizon FiOS consumers had download speeds of at least 83.39 Mbps. Based on these findings, Ookla determined that XFINITY was “America’s Fastest Internet.” Ookla data also showed that the top 10 percent of Verizon FiOS consumers had higher upload speeds than the top 10 percent of XFINITY consumers.

The panel noted that while it did not question the accuracy of Ookla’s data, it agreed with NAD that the Ookla data was not a good fit for an overall claim that an ISP delivers “America’s fastest internet.”

Rather, the panel said, Ookla’s data showed only that XFINITY consumers who took advantage of the free tests offered on the Speedtest.net website subscribed to tiers of service with higher download speeds than Verizon FiOS consumers who took advantage of the tests.

The evidence in the record did not demonstrate that the consumers constituted a representative sample of XFINITY or Verizon FiOS subscribers, and Ookla’s data did not provide any indication as to which ISP more consistently delivers the highest promised download speeds in any speed tier. Overall, the panel found that the Ookla data did not provide a reasonable basis for the internet speed superiority claims made in the challenged Comcast advertisements. The panel recommended that Comcast discontinue the challenged “America’s fastest internet” claims.

The panel noted that its decision “does not preclude Comcast from accurately advertising the results of Ookla crowdsourced data as long as Comcast (a) clearly communicates what the data represents, (b) avoids any statement or implication that the data demonstrates that XFINITY provides faster internet speeds than competing ISPs, and (c) appropriately distinguishes between download and upload speed.”

Turning to the challenged “fastest in-home WiFi” claims, the panel determined that the claims reasonably conveyed a message that XFINITY offers the fastest available wireless access to the internet, although the claims were based on tests that only established faster router performance. The panel noted that because access to the internet is primarily dictated by speed of the ISP’s internet connection and dependent in large part on the internet speed tier purchased by the consumer, faster router performance doesn’t necessarily mean faster wireless access to the internet. The panel found that Comcast did not provide a reasonable basis for the messages reasonably conveyed by the challenged “fastest in-home WiFI” claims and recommended Comcast discontinue the claims.

Comcast, in its advertiser’s statement, said while it disagreed with certain of panel’s findings, it agreed to comply with NARB’s decision.

“Comcast will take NARB’s recommendations into account in developing future advertisements, and expects NAD and NARB will hold all advertisers to the same standards when making similar claims,” the company said.