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Comcast told not to claim it has 'America's fastest internet'

Ookla's data doesn't back up its braggadocio, says ad regulator.
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Comcast has agreed to stop advertising its Xfinity broadband service as "the fastest internet in America" after an ad industry group said the claim doesn't jibe with the data. The company based the slogan on user Ookla tests, which the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) said were "not a good fit" for the fastest speed claims. After Verizon (the owner of AOL, Engadget's parent) first challenged the ads back in August and won, NARB upheld the decision and recommended Comcast discontinue specific assertions.

The problem? For one, Comcast's own Ookla data showed that Xfinity customers who participated in the tests were on the fastest Xfinity tiers, whereas Verizon's FiOS users weren't. And while the Ookla data (which NARB doesn't dispute) shows a faster 104.56 Mbps Comcast download speed compared to 83.39 Mbps for Verizon, FiOS customers actually had better upload speeds. In addition, it found that Comcast didn't provide adequate proof for its rather silly "fastest in-home WiFi" claims.

The panel noted that while it did not question the accuracy of Ookla's data, it agreed with NAD that the Ookla data was not a good fit for an overall claim that an ISP delivers 'America's fastest internet.'

The watchdog wrote that it had no problem with advertising Ookla speeds, as long as it "clearly communicates what the data represents." Comcast said that it would comply with the ruling, even though it "respectfully disagrees," adding that it hopes the regulator will hold other firms to the same standard. The board did just that back in June though, making Verizon back down on claims that FiOS fiber "is rated number one in internet speed," as Ars Technica notes.

Decisions of the review board, which is administered by the Better Business Bureau, aren't legally binding. However, they could become increasingly important for consumers if, as expected, government regulators like the FCC and FTC take a more hands-off approach under the Trump administration. With a lesser threat of fines or other actions, however, businesses like Comcast (which leads the nation in terrible customer service) might start ignoring them.

Verizon owns Engadget's parent company, Oath (formerly AOL). Rest assured, Verizon has no control over our coverage. Engadget remains editorially independent.

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