Cablevision Ordered to Stop Ads Saying Verizon FiOS Claims “Lies”

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By Tim McElgunn

August 12 — Cablevision's competition with Verizon Communications' FiOS service will have to go forward without an ad campaign that labels as lies the telco's own advertising claiming to provide the fastest in-home Wi-Fi and calling FiOS “all-fiber.”

But the battle of words continued, with Verizon issuing a release celebrating a temporary restraining order of Eastern District of New York Magistrate Judge Gary Brown requiring Cablevision to pull the ads, which used images of Pinnochio and of “Verizon customer service representatives” with their pants on fire. The ruling requires Cablevision to stop running the ads by this Friday.

“The law, like our economic system, encourages spirited competition,” the judge said, “But when a competitor exceeds the bounds of decency by falsely impugning the integrity of a competitor, it runs afoul of the law. Such extraordinary conduct warrants the extraordinary relief of a temporary restraining order.”

Cablevision responded with its own press release saying that it is allowed to and will continue to run ads that challenge FiOS's claims but that do not expressly say that the telco's claims are lies.

‘All-Fiber,' ‘Fastest Wi-Fi' Claims

The core of the dispute are FiOS commercials that call the service “all-fiber” and that claim that FiOS customers are provided with “the fastest WiFi available from any provider, period.”

Cablevision first challenged the Wi-Fi claims in January 2015, after launching its Freewheel Wi-Fi voice service, asking the court to order Verizon to stop airing allegedly “false, misleading and deceptive advertising claims about WiFi service.”

“Verizon's claim that it has faster WiFi than Cablevision is false, deceptive and designed to mislead consumers,” Cablevision said in a January 29 statement. “Verizon has no public WiFi network. In addition, Verizon's in-home routers are not faster than Optimum Smart Routers and cost Verizon customers hundreds of dollars while Optimum's are free. It is not a coincidence that Verizon is making false WiFi claims just as Cablevision is introducing its all-WiFi Freewheel phone, which will allow consumers to avoid Verizon's data caps and excessive data overage fees.”

In May, Cablevision filed a second suit, asking the court for the Southern District of New York to order Verizon to pull its “all fiber” claim, saying that FiOS does not delivered over optical fiber within subscribers' homes that the telco also uses coaxial cable drops to connect to buildings “in certain situations.”

Cablevision then dropped the separate Wi-Fi suit, saying that it was combining the two actions into a single suit before the Eastern District court in Islip, N.Y., near Cablevision's headquarters in Bethpage.. That is the suit that Judge Brown ruled on this week.

Following the judge's ruling, Cablevision said it would continue to advertise that its Optimum Wi-Fi network “is a better data network than Verizon's service, and that the Optimum WiFi network offers a faster experience than cellular.”

The case is Cablevision Systems Corp v. Verizon Communications Inc., U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 15-456.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim McElgunn in Cherry Hill at tmcelgunn@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bob Emeritz at bemeritz@bna.com