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T-Mobile, Comcast mud-wrestling match gets tiresome

It’s getting hard for us journalists covering the wired and wireless telecom ecosystem to keep up with all the mud-slinging between T-Mobile and Comcast. And you’ve got to feel sorry for the folks over at the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs.

It seems like nary a week goes by where either T-Mobile or Comcast isn’t asking NAD to intervene in some complaint about each other’s advertising. Last week, NAD told T-Mobile to stop claiming its T-Mobile Home Internet service is “fast” and “reliable” after a complaint was lodged by Comcast. Of course, that didn’t go over well at T-Mobile, which is appealing parts of the NAD decision.

Today, the extremely overworked referees at NAD issued a new press release, saying T-Mobile had voluntarily discontinued its claim that its customer loyalty was “four times higher than Xfinity” customer loyalty. The announcement was a confusing explanation, involving NAD’s jurisdiction and whether the advertisement in question was “national in character.” Blah, blah, blah.

Aside from whining to NAD, T-Mobile and Comcast have ramped up their marketing and advertising attacks.

In December, T-Mobile hired a billboard truck to drive circles around the Comcast Center in Philadelphia while playing a video that talked about Comcast’s price hikes over the years.

It’s all beginning to feel like a corporate version of school children duking it out on the playground and telling the teacher “He started it, first.”

Bottom line

The big cable companies have, for decades, avoided competition with each other because they divided up their footprints across the U.S. to not overlap in many locations.

The cable executives like to get together at private industry events hosted by CableLabs, where they consider themselves “collegial.”

And when they have had to face competition in their markets they haven’t hesitated to use their considerable legal means. For instance, the big cable operators are known to fight municipal broadband projects.

But new competition has arrived in the form of T-Mobile and Verizon.

For the past couple of years, T-Mobile and Verizon have been offering fixed wireless access (FWA) home broadband services, which compete directly with cable broadband. And T-Mobile and Verizon can offer their services nationally, wherever they provide mobile service. The traditional “gentlemen’s agreements” over cable footprints don't apply.

Fierce Wireless has been providing robust reporting on how FWA is impacting the cable companies. FWA is taking a bite out of their lucrative broadband businesses.

Based on all the complaints from Comcast lodged with NAD, it appears Comcast wants to fight new competition through its legal department. But Comcast may have met its match with T-Mobile. The Un-Carrier loves marketing and advertising, and it also likes to use its big legal team.

Notably, Verizon has not been lodging complaints with NAD. It could be that Verizon has other fish to fry – like increasing its quarterly mobile subscriber counts. Or perhaps it’s just not as litigious as T-Mobile.

More likely, it enjoys the nice wholesale revenues it receives from Comcast and Charter, whose mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) services ride on Verizon’s network. And it calculates that picking fights with the cable companies in regard to advertising is not in its best interest.

Editor’s Corners are opinion pieces written by Fierce Wireless’ editors.

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