Call for Comcast to halt or tweak Wi-Fi claim in limbo

Only an hour or so after recommending that Comcast discontinue or modify its "Best In-Home WiFi Experience" claim, the National Advertising Division (NAD) has retracted the case decision, "as additional changes are still pending."

NAD, which issued the original case decision at 9 a.m. ET today, said that decision will be re-issued when it is final and ready for publication. That final decision could be issued within the next couple of days, according to an official.

Update: NAD announced October 20 that no changes were made to the case decision.

The case stems from a complaint lodged by AT&T challenging Comcast's "Best In-Home WiFi Experience" claim in two Comcast TV commercials and a mailer.

NAD said earlier it found that Comcast's Wi-Fi-related claim "conveys an unqualified message … which requires evidence matching the breadth of the claim" to competitors based on "consumer-relevant metrics."

However, the NAD's original determination noted that nothing in its decision would prevent Comcast from promoting its "unique WiFi features and the benefits they provide."

Wi-Fi now a big part of ISP arsenals

AT&T's challenge and the NAD's review come as in-home Wi-Fi coverage and quality – not just the broadband speeds being delivered to the home – have become increasingly important to ISP strategies in their fight to gain and retain subscribers.

Comcast, for example, has developed a Wi-Fi management system for its gateways called "xFi" that monitors in-home performance along with other features that, for example, let customers pause home Wi-Fi access to particular users or devices. Comcast has also been backing xFi with Wi-Fi extenders branded as xFi Pods, including the recent introduction of a second generation of the Pods that increases speed and in-home coverage, thanks to a shift from a dual-band radio to a tri-band radio.

AT&T, meanwhile, markets a "Smart Wi-Fi" offering also focused on whole-home coverage that features an app that helps customers manage their home wireless connections along with Wi-Fi extenders that are sold separately.

While still pending a final determination, the original NAD announcement also recommended that Comcast discontinue its "Living with AT&T" commercial "because it communicated an unsupported message that AT&T offers and sells consumers internet speeds that it does not deliver."

However, the original (and now pending) decision also determined that an express claim – "AT&T, why am I paying the same price for only a fraction of the speed you advertised?" – standing alone, was supported because AT&T offers different speed tiers based on the technology (DSL or fiber, for example) available at a particular address. It's not yet clear how the coming update from NAD will impact this part of the decision.

According to the NAD's original announcement, Comcast had told the organization it is appealing the overall decision, believing it "provided a more than reasonable basis to support its claim" concerning in-home Wi-Fi.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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