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Cablevision Slaps Verizon With WiFi Suit

Alan Breznick
1/30/2015

In a clear sign of just how important and competitive a service WiFi has become for broadband providers, Cablevision is taking Verizon to court over the telco's ads that claim Verizon offers the fastest WiFi around.

Just three days after introducing its new Freewheel WiFi-only phone service, Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) lodged the suit in federal court for the Eastern District of New York Thursday afternoon. In the suit, Cablevision charges that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has been running ads that make "false" and "deceptive" claims "designed to mislead consumers" into believing that the telco offers the speediest WiFi service of any provider. (See Cablevision's New WiFi Try – Freewheeling Enough?)

Those ads, designed to promote Verizon's new FiOS Quantum Gateway, boast that FiOS can now deliver "the fastest WiFi available from any provider, period." Verizon says the new gateway, introduced with great fanfare in November, offers home networking speeds as high as 800 Mbit/s. (See Verizon Drops Its Quantum Router, Hints at IoT.)

"Verizon's claim that it has faster WiFi than Cablevision is false, deceptive and designed to mislead consumers," Cablevision said in a prepared 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."

Not one to take such suits lying down, Verizon almost immediately fired back with its own statement late yesterday. "We have not the seen the lawsuit but this is a boldface ploy to promote Cablevision's latest wireless gambit," the telco retorted. "A third party has tested and validated the FiOS Quantum Gateway Router. It offers the fastest in-home Wi-Fi available from any provider. As usual, Cablevision is confusing consumers by using apples to oranges comparisons, in this case of in-home and public Wi-Fi.”


Want to know more about cable WiFi strategies? Check out our dedicated cable WiFi content channel here on Light Reading.


Fierce rivals in the New York metro area, Cablevision and Verizon have tangled before over contentious comparative advertising. Most recently, for example, they battled over which pay-TV provider offers greater DVR recording capabilities.

But this is the first time that Verizon and Cablevision have fought over WiFi, which is becoming an increasingly key differentiator between providers. Cablevision brags about its 1.1 million WiFi access points and free "smart routers" in the New York area while Verizon boasts about the power of its routers and fast home networking speeds.

Who will win this battle? Hard to say. But consumers, not the courts, will undoubtedly be the final judges.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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KBode
KBode
2/2/2015 | 11:50:45 AM
Re: Dumb move by Cablevision
I think it gets the Freewgeel brand name out in the lights, and circulates it in the media spotlight for a second week after the initial announcement:

 

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&gl=us&tbm=nws&authuser=0&q=Freewheel&oq=Freewheel&gs_l=news-cc.3..43j43i53.866.2095.0.2510.9.5.0.4.0.0.91.359.5.5.0...0.0...1ac.1.rDEveK4Xem4

 

I'm not sure if that's an effective advertising campaign, but I have a sneaking suspicion that's what somebody at Cablevision was thinking. How much would a sustained advertising blitz cost versus a few hours of legal work?
smkinoshita
smkinoshita
2/2/2015 | 11:45:24 AM
Re: Dumb move by Cablevision
@KBode - Do you think it will be something the media or consumers care that much about?  I can't see consumers paying that much attention.  Seems like more cost than good.
KBode
KBode
2/2/2015 | 9:07:18 AM
Re: Dumb move by Cablevision
I honestly get the impression the lawsuit is more about getting the press to mention Cablevision's new Wi-Fi calling service by name a few times than it is actually defending their advertisement honor. These companies are usually perfectly happy to have NAD handle these disputes. I'd be pretty surprised if this case gets much of a workout.
danielcawrey
danielcawrey
2/1/2015 | 2:37:04 PM
Re: Dumb move by Cablevision
I think there's nothing wrong with a little back and forth between companies. Competition, in the end, is good for the consumer because they end up getting a better deal. Interesting to see Cablevision go up against such a fortuitous rival, however. 
pcharles09
pcharles09
1/31/2015 | 4:19:18 PM
Re: Dumb move by Cablevision
@smkinoshita,

I've been a harsh critic of Cablevision almost all of my life. To see them throwing more $$ after frivolous causes angers me even more. Not to mention that I've also been a tormented Knicks fan. So to add that in the mix is a double blow.

But I guess at this point, I guess they figure 'who cares' since more Cablevision customers are stuck using their service anyway.
thebulk
thebulk
1/31/2015 | 3:46:58 PM
Re: Dumb move by Cablevision
@smkinoshita, I agree, I can not see any outcome that offers any real bennifit to either. Unless they just want to lay the groundwork for something larger. 
MikeP688
MikeP688
1/31/2015 | 1:19:47 PM
Re: Dumb move by Cablevision
As I read through this column from our Practice Leader, I could not help but remember Rodney King's old admonition, "Can't we all just get along"?   I also reflected upon the simple yet crucial thing:  When would Cablevision be taken out of its' misery?   
smkinoshita
smkinoshita
1/31/2015 | 12:58:54 PM
Dumb move by Cablevision
"Who will win this battle? Hard to say. But consumers, not the courts, will undoubtedly be the final judges."

Agreed.  The lawsuit is a dumb move and it's just going to waste both company's time and money.  Even a best case scenario I can't see any feasible benefit for Cablevision.
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