For some time we've noted that companies who can't afford (or refuse) to run fiber to the home often pretend
they do -- running ads that conflate core and last mile fiber. While occasionally a tactic of ADSL or VDSL ISPs (Qwest), usually it's a marketing tactic of cable companies attempting to compete with Verizon FiOS. Time Warner Cable has been a particularly egregious offender over the years, running ads since at least 2009
claiming they give you "fiber optics without the hassle," or arguing that "Verizon FiOS isn't the only one that gives you fiber optics."
Verizon has filed numerous complaints with the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, a self-regulatory industry agency that tackles these issues in-house before they get sent to the FTC. The NAD has repeatedly ruled in Verizon's favor in previous complaints against Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, and Comcast -- and again this week ruled that Time Warner Cable should stop pretending they offer fiber to the home
The NARB panel noted in its decision that while "most" telecommunications providers
currently use fiber-optic cable for the backbone of their networks, that's obviously not the same thing as offering last mile fiber. "Prior NAD cases recognized differences between 'fiber to the home' networks and 'fiber to the node' networks, and the evidence in the present case shows those differences continue to exist," NARB notes. That's comforting for those worried that reality might be broken.
Time Warner Cable believes that the panel’s decision denies Time Warner Cable the opportunity to truthfully and accurately describe its fiber-optic network in its advertising.
-Time Warner Cable
It's hard to imagine that anyone could really disagree with the fact that FTTH and FTTN aren't the same thing, but somehow Time Warner Cable found a way. Amusingly, not only did Time Warner Cable deny this fundamental technological reality, they managed to distort logic 180 degrees, insisting they were simply "truthfully and accurately" describing their "fiber-optic network," and that by requiring Time Warner Cable not lie, NARB was somehow harming their ability to market in DSL areas:
"Time Warner Cable believes that the panel’s decision denies Time Warner Cable the opportunity to truthfully and accurately describe its fiber-optic network in its advertising – a practice which it has engaged in for two decades without any signs of consumer confusion or harm. In addition, the panel's decision inhibits the ability of Time Warner Cable and other service providers to distinguish their services in areas where their competitors have indisputably inferior products."
Of course if Time Warner Cable were truly interested in "distinguishing their service" they could speed up their DOCSIS 3.0 upgrades. Despite being the nation's second largest cable operator, Time Warner Cable lags most other large U.S. cable companies in getting the relatively inexpensive upgrades deployed -- in large part because they lack serious competition across large swaths of their footprint. Fortunately, Time Warner Cable has agreed to stop the misleading ads after several years of debate. If they continue the practice of pretending fiber to the node is fiber to the home, the complaint gets forwarded to the FTC who'll then take a look at potential false advertising punishment.