Cox Should Disclose PowerBoost Limitation: Ad Group

Cox Communications has provided "reasonable support" for certain advertising claims about its high-speed Internet service -- which were challenged by Qwest Communications -- but the cable operator should in the future disclose a limitation about the PowerBoost feature, according to the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Specifically, the NAD recommended that Cox "clearly and conspicuously" disclose in future advertising the fact that PowerBoost, which temporarily increases download speeds when extra bandwidth is available, provides the extra speed burst only for the first 18 to 22 Megabytes of a file download.

In a statement, Cox said, "Cox is pleased with the decision of the National Advertising Division which concluded that PowerBoost technology provides a meaningful benefit to Cox High Speed Internet customers and that the PowerBoost claims in our advertisements were substantiated. We appreciate the Division's careful consideration of the issues raised in this matter and will take into account NAD's recommendations in our future advertising."

Qwest did not immediately comment on the NAD report.

Cox's claims, which appeared in TV, print and Internet ads, related to download speeds, Qwest's DSL subscription plans and customer service.

NAD found that Cox acted appropriately in discontinuing certain claims "to avoid conveying the unsupported message" that Qwest requires all of its customers to sign long-term contracts. Cox asserted that those claims were permanently discontinued prior to the filing of the challenge. Previously, the MSO's spots had included the claim, "Qwest wants to lock you in to a lifetime of their DSL Internet service. Well, technology can change a lot in a lifetime."

NAD focused its review on the claims related to Cox's PowerBoost feature, which provides between 10% and 25% extra speed for downloads and uploads depending on tier, including that "PowerBoost gives you an extra burst of speed up to twice as fast as Qwest's fastest DSL."

While Cox's PowerBoost provides bursts of speed above the standard tiers, the NAD found, those faster speeds are available to customers for the first 18 to 22 Mbytes of a file download depending on the customer's service tier and that each burst typically lasts between 5 and 10 seconds.

NAD noted in its decision that would be "nearly impossible to convey in an advertisement the full array of factors" that might affect a consumer's download speed. As such, the group recommended Cox qualify future "up to" claims regarding the maximum speeds available with PowerBoost by disclosing that the feature provides a burst of speed available for the first 18 to 22 Mbytes of a file download.