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Cable Gets Its Wrist Slapped For Pretending To Offer Fiber
Better Business Bureau says Cox, Time Warner Cable ads mislead consumers
by Karl Bode 11:55AM Wednesday May 05 2010
We've repeatedly noted how both phone and cable companies have taken to running advertisements that try to conflate core network fiber with last mile fiber, given that pretending you offer fiber to the home is much cheaper than actually deploying it. Phone companies like Qwest insist their VDSL service is fiber in the hopes that nobody will notice that most of their customers remain on last-generation DSL. Cable companies also use the tactic -- specifically as a way to fend off Verizon FiOS (which of course actually is FTTH) in their territories.

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Responding to Verizon complaints, the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau recently ruled against Cablevision for running a series of ads that claimed Cablevision's network was "America's most advanced fiber optic network." Verizon also recently complained about similar practices by Cox and Time Warner Cable, and now NAD has once again ruled in Verizon's favor.

In two filings this week, NAD argued that both Cox and Time Warner Cable were misleading consumers, and "recommended" that both companies discontinue ads that imply they offer fiber to the home technology. NAD cites several examples, such as Cox ads that claim the company is "the new face of fiber," and Time Warner Cable ads that insist the company's "advanced fiber network lets you experience the web like never before." Says NAD:
Following its review, NAD determined that at least one reasonable interpretation of TWC's "fiber optic network" claim is that TWC offers its services over a network which solely consists of fiber optics and is the functional and/or technic al equivalent of a telecommunications network where fiber does extend to the home, a claim which the evidence in the record did not support. NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its use of the phrase "fiber optic network" to describe its Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC) network.
Time Warner Cable, says they "respectfully, but vehemently" disagree with NAD's decision and plan to appeal. Should Cox and Time Warner Cable appeal and refuse to comply with NAD's ruling, the complaint will be forwarded to the FTC -- who'll then decide if the cable operators are engaged in false advertising. Cablevision, for one, has agreed to stop using this particularly fiber-focused ad approach. Comcast refused, and is currently facing a pending FTC inquiry.

"This ruling is great news for consumers, who've been misled for too long by Cox and Time Warner's false and deliberately misleading ads," Verizon spokesman Bill Kula tells Broadband Reports. "It's finally time for both Cox and Time Warner to stop claiming that their hybrid network is the same as Verizon's advanced, all-fiber network; It is not," says Kula. "As consumers make critical purchasing decisions, it's important for them to know the truth about who is really offering the most advanced network (and) the highest broadband speeds."

Of course keep in mind that Verizon isn't above a little semantics themselves. At least half of Verizon's footprint remains served by last-generation DSL. Some time ago, Verizon completely stopped using the term "DSL" -- and now only refers to their older copper last-mile services as "high speed Internet" -- apparently concerned that the very term DSL would harm their image as a next-generation broadband provider. Still, that's certainly less misleading than pretending that last-mile coaxial is the same as fiber to the home.

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