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Ad Group Recommends That AT&T Tweak Fiber Claims

The National Advertising Division, a unit administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, announced last week that it has recommended that AT&T modify advertising in a way that clarifies the availability of AT&T Fiber, an FTTP-based product that delivers gigabit speeds.

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The recommendation follows a challenge lodged by Charter Communications, which complained about several AT&T Fiber ad claims, including: “With internet this fast, it must be the future,” “Internet speeds twenty times faster. Introducing AT&T Fiber,” “Speeds 20x faster than the average cable customer,” “Internet 1000,” and “AT&T has the largest fiber network.”

In coming to its conclusion, NAD said it considered whether the advertising at issue implied that AT&T has upgraded all, or substantially all, of its network to deliver fiber-to-the-home services, or that AT&T Fiber is available to most customers in the areas where the company offers residential broadband service.

AT&T, which is appealing the NAD’s recommendation, countered that consumers understand that AT&T Fiber has limited availability because ads include qualifying language such as “coming soon” and “introducing.”

NAD noted that in previous cases that limited service availability “is a material fast that must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed to consumers. Given that AT&T offers internet service using other technology, the decision states, it is especially important that AT&T communicate the limited availability of its AT&T Fiber.”

NAD’s recommendation is for AT&T Fiber ads to be modified to make clear that AT&T Fiber “is more unavailable than available.”

Regarding AT&T’s claim that AT&T Fiber is the largest FTTH network, NAD suggests that the company discontinue using that claim or modify it to “make clear that it refers to fiber across AT&T’s network, not to its fiber-to-the-home network.”

NAD backed its recommendation by finding that a coverage map on AT&T’s web site “did not reasonably communicate the message that AT&T Fiber was generally available in an area designated on the map.”

As for the “Internet 1000” ad claim, NAD said the “name itself is expressly false,” as AT&T discloses that max download speeds for AT&T Fiber is 940 Mbps.

NAD noted that AT&T “strongly disagrees with this recommendation” in part because the “coming soon” statement clearly communicates that the advertised service is not yet available and thus, additional limited availability disclosures are unnecessary, contradictory and confusing.”

Charter, meanwhile, said it would NAD’s finding that AT&T can advertise AT&T Fiber services on a market-wide basis in markets where the service is not yet available to 20% (or more) of the marketplace,” and NAD’s finding that AT&T can advertise that customers will receive a “gigabit” or “1000 Mbps connection” with AT&T’s “Internet 1000” tier of service, so long as it discloses that the service delivers speeds up to 940 Mbps.