Verizon forced to pull ad that claimed firefighters need Verizon 5G

Verizon finally expanded 5G coverage this week

Verizon didn’t even offer any 5G on non-millimeter-wave bands until this week, when it turned on 5G in lower-frequency bands in over 1,800 cities. Even this version of 5G is only expected to provide small speed boosts, especially in the early days. A Verizon VP admitted Tuesday that the lower-band 5G speeds are “similar” to 4G, so there’s no reason to think it will give firefighters or anyone else a big advantage over Verizon’s 4G LTE service any time soon.

Though the NAD didn’t review Verizon’s discontinued firefighter and first-responder ads, the group found that several other Verizon advertising claims weren’t supported by evidence. The NAD thus recommended that Verizon:

  • Avoid conveying the unsupported message that Verizon’s 5G service is 10x faster than home Internet
  • Discontinue the claim that its customers “don’t worry about lag” when using its 5G service
  • Discontinue the claim that a download that used to take 20 minutes now takes 20 seconds or modify it to make a quantified claim supported by the evidence

The NAD also recommended changes to Verizon ads that compare Verizon’s 4G LTE to T-Mobile 5G. The NAD ruled against some of T-Mobile’s other challenges to Verizon 5G ads.

Previous Verizon ads falsely implied nationwide 5G

This was not the first time that the NAD found a gap between Verizon’s 5G hype and its actual 5G offerings. In July, an NAD ruling caused Verizon to stop running ads that falsely implied the carrier’s 5G mobile service was available throughout the United States. As the NAD said then, “Verizon does not dispute that its current 5G service is limited. Verizon’s 5G coverage is primarily restricted to outdoor locations in certain neighborhoods and varies from block to block.”

While Verizon has more recently expanded 5G coverage, that NAD statement from July described the same millimeter-wave coverage that Verizon was touting as a game-changer for firefighters earlier in the year. At the same time that Verizon was claiming its 5G lets firefighters stream video from inside fire-engulfed structures, Verizon 5G in reality was “primarily restricted to outdoor locations in certain neighborhoods.” In today’s announcement, the NAD said it once again “recommended that Verizon clearly and conspicuously disclose the limited availability of its 5G service.”

In the 2018 controversy, Santa Clara County’s fire department complained that it paid Verizon for “unlimited” data but was throttled during a wildfire response until upgrading to a more expensive plan. Verizon said the department had chosen an unlimited data plan that gets throttled after using 25GB a month but admitted that Verizon failed to follow its own policy of “remov[ing] data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations.”

The incident was cited in a lawsuit that California and other states filed in an attempt to reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality repeal. A federal appeals court upheld the FCC repeal but struck down the FCC’s attempt to preempt all states from trying to impose their own net neutrality laws. California’s net neutrality law is now subject to another court battle, with the Trump administration and broadband industry attempting to overturn it.

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