As cable companies have been trying to compete with FiOS and municipal fiber builds, one of their favorite tactics has been advertisements that intentionally distort the difference between core and last-mile fiber. Marketing folk assume that since the public is probably too stupid to understand the difference, they can take some of the shine off of fiber to the home by pretending all fiber is created equal.
Time Warner Cable has taken the lead
on this front, though the tactic is used by most every major cable operator, including Cablevision, Comcast, Cox and Charter. Qwest is of course guilty of this as well, advertising their copper-based ADSL2 and VDSL services as "Qwest Fiber Optic Internet Service
By and large, carriers only get wrist slaps for this false advertising.
Most of these wrist slaps come from the National Advertising Division
(NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureau, a voluntary industry remediation forum. NAD was designed, by industry, as a self-regulatory system to handle false advertising disputes without the need for regulator involvement. The down side is that rulings can be ignored by companies, making the process often toothless.
Most recently, NAD ruled against Cablevision for running a series of ads that annoyed Verizon, by claiming Cablevision's network was "America’s most advanced fiber optic network," "state-of-the-art" and "second to none." Verizon has also filed a complaint about a series of Comcast ads that claim the cable giant "already has a fiber-optic network serving ALL customer homes." According to a statement over at the NAD website
, NAD asked Comcast to address the ads, but Comcast refused:
The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has referred an advertising claim made by Comcast Cable Communications to the Federal Trade Commission for further review, following the company’s decision not to participate in an NAD proceeding. . . In response to NAD’s inquiry, the advertiser said it declined to participate, citing concerns regarding ongoing litigation not directly related to the instant NAD proceeding. NAD noted that it appreciated the sincerity and good faith of both parties, but was disappointed at Comcast’s decision.
A toothless pseudo-regulatory agency designed by industry to be a substitute for real regulators probably shouldn't be surprised by Comcast's decision to laugh off the proceeding. The complaint will now be forwarded to the FTC, who'll likely also ignore the growing industry trend of carriers pretending they offer fiber to the home service. After all, pretending you run fiber is cheaper than actually deploying it, and as long as nobody wants to stop carriers from playing make believe -- the misleading ads will likely continue.