Verizon needed to pull an advert claiming firefighters want Verizon 5G


Verizon finally expanded its 5G coverage this week

Verizon was only offering 5G on non-millimeter-wave bands this week when it rolled out 5G in low-frequency bands in over 1,800 cities. Even this version of 5G is expected to offer little speed increases, especially in the early days. A Verizon vice president admitted Tuesday that 5G speeds are "similar" to 4G in the lower band. So there is no reason to believe that firefighters or anyone else will have a big advantage over Verizon's 4G LTE service in the near future.

Although the NAD did not review Verizon's discontinued fire and first aid advertisements, the group found that several other Verizon promotional claims were not supported by evidence. The NAD recommended Verizon:

  • Avoid delivering the unsupported message that Verizon's 5G service is ten times faster than the internet at home
  • Stop claiming that its customers "don't worry about delays" using 5G service
  • Set the claim that a download that used to take 20 minutes is now 20 seconds or change it to make a quantified claim backed by the evidence

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

Previous Verizon ads incorrectly implied 5G nationwide

This wasn't the first time the NAD found a gap between Verizon's 5G hype and its actual 5G offerings. In July, an NAD decision caused Verizon to stop serving ads, falsely implying that the operator's 5G cellular service was available across the United States. As the NAD said at the time, "Verizon does not deny that its current 5G service is limited. Verizon's 5G coverage is mostly limited to remote locations in certain neighborhoods and varies from block to block."

While Verizon has expanded 5G coverage more recently, that July NAD statement described the same millimeter-wave coverage that Verizon touted as a pioneer for firefighters earlier this year. At the same time when Verizon was claiming its 5G could allow firefighters to stream video from fire-curtained structures, Verizon 5G was in fact "primarily limited to outdoor areas in certain neighborhoods". In today's announcement, NAD said again that it had "recommended Verizon to clearly disclose the limited availability of its 5G service".

In the 2018 controversy, the Santa Clara County Fire Department complained that they paid Verizon for "unlimited" data, but were throttled during a forest fire response until upgraded to a more expensive plan. Verizon said the department chose an unlimited data plan that is throttled after using 25GB per month, but admitted that Verizon had failed to follow its own policy of "removing data speed limits when contacted in an emergency".

The incident was cited in a lawsuit California and other states filed to undo the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality. A federal appeals court upheld the repeal of the FCC, but rejected the FCC's attempt to prevent all states from enforcing their own net neutrality laws. California's net neutrality law is now subject to yet another legal battle with the Trump administration and broadband industry trying to overthrow it.


Steven Gregory