TW Cable Snips 'Fiber' Ads

Handing a victory to Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and its FiOS platform, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) has grudgingly agreed to modify or halt the use of ads claiming that the MSO's services are provided on a fiber or a fiber-optic network.

The operator, which crosses swords with Verizon's fiber-to-the-premises network in New York, said it "respectfully disagrees" with a recommendation by a National Advertising Review Board Panel that TW Cable halt the use of challenged claims that appeared in an array of video, print and Internet ads, but will comply with the decision nonetheless.

"Time Warner Cable believes that the panel's decision denies Time Warner Cable the opportunity to truthfully and accurately describe its fiber-optic network in its advertising -- a practice which it has engaged in for two decades without any signs of consumer confusion or harm," the MSO said in a statement.

The panel found that TW Cable's use of fiber as a "predominant characteristic" of its products and services "can be misleading."

Verizon challenged several ad claims, including one noting that Road Runner Turbo, one of the MSO's higher-end cable modem tiers, "is zooming across the advanced fiber network." Here's a sample of one of the ads Verizon was challenging:

Why this matters
The decision is a blow not just to TW Cable but to all cable marketing mavens that use or intend to use "fiber" to help tart up the capabilities of hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks that use fiber-to-the-node architectures.

And there's a good chance MSOs will have to steer clear of the term in ads for several years since most MSOs are expected to use techniques that squeeze more life out of their HFC networks well before they consider pulling fiber all the way to the home for consumer services.

It likewise means that Verizon and other telcos that use FTTH can market fiber to the hilt and continue to play up its real and perceived service value.

So far, the perceived value of FTTH has been questionable, at least when it comes to high-speed Internet services. While cable operators have been losing basic video subs hand-over-fist, their cable modem services have been more than holding their own against FTTH and DSL competition.

For more
For more on cable's plans to get more out of HFC and the industry's limited flirtation with FTTH, please check out:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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BillKula 12/5/2012 | 5:13:12 PM
re: TW Cable Snips 'Fiber' Ads

Verizon response to NARB ruling against Time Warner:


Cable companies say the darndest things.


It’s unfortunate that some companies resort to making false and misleading statements about what they can deliver. When that happens, it leaves consumers confused.


We’re gratified of the NARB recommendation that helps to set the record straight in terms of how Time Warner describes its network.


In our industry, many competitors would love to say their broadband network consists of 100% fiber optics; that they offer 100% fiber-optic picture and sound; and that they operate a pure fiber optic network that delivers blazing fast broadband Internet speed and eye-popping TV images.  The truth is they can’t honestly make those claims and the NARB recommendation affirms this fact.


Verizon’s FiOS network is 100 percent fiber optic based, and direct to the home.  Time Warner’s network operates a more traditional cable network bred from 1940s community antenna television roots.


Our all-fiber network provides Verizon customers America’s top rated Internet with speeds up to 150 Mbps plus the best home entertainment experience in the industry, according to published customer ratings.  Our fiber to the premises network is materially distinct from the hybrid network operated by Time Warner that uses fiber to distribute content to regional communication hubs, but pushes the signal over copper coaxial cables to homes and businesses.  The two are not the same either in technology or service capability.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:13:11 PM
re: TW Cable Snips 'Fiber' Ads

Hey TWC,

"Time Warner’s network operates a more traditional cable network bred from 1940s community antenna television roots."

Is that true? I note he says, "bred from" not "based on" so it's a little less of a slight. Still, seems you should muster up some response if you really do feel your network is something more than a fiber-free pile of crap.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:13:11 PM
re: TW Cable Snips 'Fiber' Ads

Another thing interesting about this case is that neither side presented consumer-perception evidence, so the panel "put itself in the shoes of the consumer to determine the reasonable takeaway of the challenged claims."

And you can see what their takaway was, despite TWC's disagreement.  Bill's made Verizon's position on this crystal clear, which has been evident from the start.

But if you put your consumer hat on this one, what would your percpetion be? 

Granted, cable's continues to push fiber deeper into the network, but it's not all the way to the home yet, so it will be quite a challenge for them to write aroudn that important fact and still try to get the fiber component into the messaging -- challenge is even greater considering most consumers don't care much about the  techno-speak.  Or do they... as a consumer, how would TWC's past use of fiber in ads change your perception of the company and its competitive position against FiOS and other services that use FTTP? JB


scfm 12/5/2012 | 5:13:07 PM
re: TW Cable Snips 'Fiber' Ads


I really hope you have your tongue planted firmly in your cheek when you ask about the relevance of Verizon's statement about the 1940s community antenna television roots.  It would not be much more 'misleading' for TWC to say that FiOS is bred from the first telephone exchanges of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Local Cable and Telephone networks have different topologies and fibre has helped both them overcome bandwidth challenges in different ways.  In the case of cable, the much malgined 'coax' connections to the home can support very high bandwidth data into each and every home by using cable modems (don't get started with the argument that this is 'shared' and DSL/PON is not, because DSL/PON gets shared to an equivalent level at the DSLAM/OLT).  Twisted pair on, the other hand, has a much lower limit.

Consequently, the Telcos need to pursue an FTTH or at least an FTTC strategy to get those bandwidths up to a level that providing multi-channel video (especially High Defintiion) and data is viable.  Cable has only needed to pursue an FTTN strategy to acheive the same.  The Marketing folks then try to parlay these 'differences' (and that is all they are) into either advantages or disadvantages depending on who they work for.


DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:13:06 PM
re: TW Cable Snips 'Fiber' Ads

Of course it was tongue-in-cheek. Have you ever heard me talk?

Your point actually helps support what Jeff was saying earlier. The customer point of view matters most and consumers really don't care about fiber vs. copper. They care about price above all else.


scfm 12/5/2012 | 5:13:05 PM
re: TW Cable Snips 'Fiber' Ads

Thanks for the confirmation.

You've always struck me (fortunately not literally) as a pretty circumspect and irreverent type and I'd hate to think you were swayed by Marketing fluff this time.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:13:04 PM
re: TW Cable Snips 'Fiber' Ads

I'm not totally out to lunch but I do have my moments. And, as a consumer, I get confused right along with everyone else.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:13:03 PM
re: TW Cable Snips 'Fiber' Ads


To whom it may concern,

Unlike what it says below, Phil can not actually speak.  Phil is actually Larry the Attack Monkey.  What happens is he has had a keyboard for a large number of years and a random actual messages and sentences pop out.  These are chained together to form the text seen on this site.



DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:13:03 PM
re: TW Cable Snips 'Fiber' Ads

Fiddlesticks, hooey and applesauce.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:13:03 PM
re: TW Cable Snips 'Fiber' Ads

I'll be interested to see how TWC ends up modifying its message after this, and if it tries to write around it a bit so it can still mention that the "F" in HFC is Fiber. 

I'd hazzard to guess we're not going to see a tagline like:  "Cable: We've Got Fiber...All the Way To The Node, Baby!"


"You think hybrid cars are hot? Wait till you get a load of our Hybrid Fiber/Coax!"

Not exactly the kind of messages that are going to make the phones ring and get consumers to churn.

Maybe we can all be of service here.  What taglines can you offer to cable that lets them talk about their fiber while steering clear of the ad police?



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