It's questionable whether Internet service providers have devoted enough resources to improving their broadband networks. But there's no doubt they're spending plenty of time and money challenging each other's ads for broadband service.
In a few instances, the companies have bypassed the BBB and gone directly to court. This January, for instance, Cablevision filed a false advertising lawsuit against Verizon in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Cablevision took issue with Verizon ads touting the "fastest WiFi available from any provider."
Verizon countered that Cablevision's ads offered the misleading statements that it offers customers 1.1 million WiFi hotspots. Verizon said that most of those hotspots were within customers' homes.
Both companies sought injunctions prohibiting the other from continuing to run those ads. Both requests were denied by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Gary Brown in Central Islip, N.Y. He said that neither broadband provider "met the demanding standards" required to obtain an injunction.
While the lawsuit was pending, Cablevision launched a new "Liar, Liar" ad campaign, which accused Verizon of misrepresenting its service.
One ad offered the following list of things that aren't real -- "fairies, bridge trolls, sparkly unicorns, and that Verizon FiOS is a local provider" -- according to court records.
Another shows Pinocchio with a document on a Verizon FiOS clipboard, while a third features a Verizon FiOS rep with his pants on fire.
Verizon filed separate papers challenging those ads, following which Cablevision said it would withdraw them.
But Cablevision then unveiled new ads, which also drew on the "liar" theme. One of those was described by Brown as a "Western-themed advertisement with Cablevision's character represented by a sheriff telling Verizon that, 'quote, This town's had enough of your lies, unquote.'"
A second was a "space-themed ad where a Verizon FiOS alien character explains that he will unleash his laser of lies upon the world with a voice-over at the end that states, 'quote, FiOS claims they have the fastest WiFi, but truth is Optimum's WiFi is unbeatable."
On Monday, Brown ordered Cablevision to stop running those ads.
"Verizon has demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits as to the liar campaign, in that Verizon is likely to prove at trial that Cablevision makes false and defamatory claims," he said in court, according to a transcript provided to MediaPost.
Brown added: "Cablevision's claims are likely to confuse consumers and harms Verizon's trade and reputation."
Even after that ruling was issued, Cablevision and Verizon continued to battle in the court of public opinion, with each company issuing separate press releases about the scope of the order.
One factor likely fueling the continuing feud -- and other, similar battles -- seems to be that consumers still lack good information about broadband. A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office noted that ISPs' disclosures "vary with respect to length, content, and where they are placed on ISPs’ websites."
The GAO added: "According to public interest groups we spoke with, the complexity of this information and its lack of standardization across ISPs can make it difficult for consumers to find and use the information to compare broadband products and services.”