Ad watchdog puts some reins on Charter's 'Speed Boost' claims

Amid an AT&T challenge, the National Advertising Division has asked Charter to modify claims for 'Speed Boost,' a feature that enables fast connections to smartphones linked to Charter's in-home Wi-Fi hotspots.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

April 26, 2023

3 Min Read
Ad watchdog puts some reins on Charter's 'Speed Boost' claims

A national advertising watchdog has recommended that Charter Communications alter some claims about a "Speed Boost" enhancement offered to Spectrum Mobile customers at no additional cost. But the ad organization stopped short of requesting that Charter stop promoting Speed Boost completely.

Stemming from a challenge lodged by AT&T, the National Advertising Division (NAD) announced Wednesday its recommendation that Charter discontinue the claim that "Only Spectrum gives you Speed Boost, for the fastest wireless speeds in the palm of your hand," or modify the ads to disclose "material conditions necessary to obtain the benefits of Speed Boost."

Figure 1: Charter offers 'Speed Boost' to customers of Spectrum Mobile, an offering that is bundled with the operator's home broadband. (Source: Charter) Charter offers 'Speed Boost' to customers of Spectrum Mobile, an offering that is bundled with the operator's home broadband.
(Source: Charter)

Speed Boost, a feature for Charter's mobile customers included with the company's relatively new Spectrum One mobile/home broadband packages, touts speedy connections when customers' mobile devices are connected to one of Charter's "advanced" in-home Wi-Fi hotspots. Speed Boost provides that data jump (up to 1 Gbit/s) on the mobile device even if the customer's wireline broadband service is provisioned to deliver less than 1-Gig.

NAD said it determined that some of the language used in the Speed Boost ads combined with visual images of a man brandishing his smartphone "conveys the message that Speed Boost is widely available on mobile devices." As such, the claim that Speed Boost provides "the fastest wireless speeds in the palm of your hand" is an "unqualified wireless speed claim," NAD said.

"Further, NAD found that the on-screen disclosures do not clearly communicate the circumstances under which a user will experience the benefits of Speed Boost," the organization added.

Though NAD recommended that Charter discontinue or modify its Speed Boost advertising, it also noted that "nothing in its decision precludes Charter from making truthful and non-misleading claims about the availability of Speed Boost."

What's not clear is how this decision will impact Charter's Speed Boost ads. The company has been asked to comment on the NAD decision and if the operator intends to comply with the organization's recommendation.

Update: Charter issued this statement Wednesday afternoon: "The NAD's decision reaffirms Charter's ability to provide consumers with accurate information regarding our innovative Speed Boost technology. Speed Boost is exclusive to our customers who have Mobile, Internet and Advanced WiFi."

Ad battles brew

NAD's take on Charter's Speed Boost isn't the only industry-related decision from the ad watchdog this week.

Yesterday, NAD recommended that T-Mobile discontinue a "Don't you worry 'bout speed" claim in ads for its fixed wireless access (FWA) home broadband service. That decision stemmed from a challenge from Comcast.

NAD said T-Mobile's ad claim "conveys a message that consumers can get the speed they need to do whatever they want on the internet without limitation." T-Mobile said it will comply with NAD's recommendations but disagreed that the challenged ad "communicates an unsubstantiated message," NAD explained.

The frequency of such ad spats has been increasing as competition between cable operators, telcos and mobile network operators heats up in multiple service segments.

Other recent ad challenges have also focused on T-Mobile's FWA service, cable's move into the mobile market and how cable operators market and promote home broadband speeds.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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