The broadcasting provider space is a competitive one in 2017, and Comcast has been working to differentiate itself from the pack by claiming it has “America’s fastest internet” in many of its advertising materials. As it turns out, that’s not true. Comcast supported its fastest internet claim via data provided by Ookla speed tests, which the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has declared insufficient. Now that the NARB has spoken, Comcast has agreed to stop advertising its Xfinity broadband service using the phrase “America’s fastest internet”.
Comcast’s slogan has been under fire since Verizon first challenged the Comcast ad terminology in August of 2016 and won the decision. Now that the NARB has upheld the decision, Comcast is facing increasing pressure to acquiesce.
The main issue the NARB found with the Ookla study that Comcast was citing lies with internet-speed service tiers, not the speeds that Ookla measured. The Comcast Xfinity customers whose speed was measured all fell into Xfinity’s fasted internet tier; the Verizon Fios users that were tested were not all in Verizon’s fastest internet tier. That’s just for download speeds, as it turns out, those same Ookla reports showed that Verizon Fios customers actually had higher upload speeds than Xfinity users.
“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,” NARB said in a statement.
Comcast has agreed to abide by the ruling of the NARB, which, it is important to note, does not set legally binding precedents. Comcast would be completely within its rights to ignore the NARB and continue using the “America’s Fastest Internet” slogan, but would likely face a massive public relations backlash if it were to do so. While the NARB’s rulings aren’t binding now, its opinions, and those of institutions like it, may become increasingly more important as federal agencies like the FTC take a more hands-off approach under the new Trump administration.
“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,” Comcast said in a statement.