NAD Examines Internet Speed Claims; Finds Comcast’s Monadic Speed Claim Supported But Recommends Modification to Better Disclose Limitations of Service; Recommends Discontinuation of Comparative Speed, Reliability Claims

New York, NY – Jan. 28, 2015 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Comcast Cable Communications, LLC, modify certain advertising claims made by the company for its “Extreme 505” high-speed Internet service, to better disclose the availability of the service.

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

The claims at issue were challenged by AT&T Services, Inc., and included:

  • “XFINITY delivers the fastest Internet, now with download speeds up to 505 Mbps,” and invites customers to call to “sign up today.”
    “Introducing Extreme 505, the fastest internet available.”
  • “And our fastest internet is now even faster with Extreme 505.”
  • “Fastest just got a lot faster. Introducing Xfinity Extreme 505 with the fastest internet speed available.”
  • Extreme 505 is twenty times faster than U-verse’s top available speed

NAD noted in its decision that it recently considered AT&T’s promotion of its 45 Megabits per second (Mbps) speed tier in light of that tier’s still limited availability.  In that case, NAD determined that AT&T had a reasonable basis for its claim to offer “up to 45 Mbps” because this speed was “achievable by an appreciable number of consumers under circumstances that are typically encountered.”  However, NAD also recommended the advertiser disclose to consumers that its service is “more unavailable than available.”

In this case, Comcast provided NAD with data, on a confidential basis, that indicated Extreme 505 service was available to an appreciable number of households in the areas where the service was marketed, including Atlanta, Chicago, and Miami/Ft. Lauderdale. NAD therefore determined that Comcast had provided a reasonable basis for its claim to offer “download speeds up to 505 Mbps” in the Atlanta, Chicago, and Miami/Ft. Lauderdale markets in which it advertises the service.

However, NAD noted that Comcast’s Extreme 505 service is more widely available in some of these markets than others. In keeping with self-regulatory precedent, NAD recommended that when advertising its 505 service in markets where the service is not available to a majority of households, Comcast must disclose to consumers that the service is “more unavailable than available.”

Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD recommended that Comcast discontinue the claim that its Extreme 505 service is “20 times faster than U-verse’s top speed.” NAD noted in its decision that Comcast sought to define “top speed” as the “fastest widely available speed,” arguing that AT&T’s 45 Mbps was not widely available. NAD disagreed with Comcast’s analysis. Although the extent of a speed tier’s availability may be a factor in determining whether the speed can be advertised as generally available, NAD determined that such considerations are irrelevant to claims about a provider’s “top speed.”

Further, NAD found that the evidence in the record failed to support the claim that “[o]nly Xfinity delivers consistently reliable internet speeds” and the claim that Xfinity has “the most reliable internet even during peak hours,” which “U-verse doesn’t.” NAD recommended that these claims be discontinued.

Comcast, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “appreciates NAD’s industry-wide approach to the issue of service availability and agrees with NAD’s finding that where a service is more unavailable than available, advertisers should provide clear disclosure informing consumers of that limited availability.  Although Comcast disagrees with the remainder of NAD’s findings, Comcast will take NAD’s recommendations into account in its future advertising.”