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Judge orders Cablevision to stop calling Verizon a liar

A federal court hands Verizon a legal victory by ordering Cablevision to stop running advertisements calling Verizon a liar over claims that it offers the fastest Wi-Fi network.

Verizon has won the latest legal battle in a spat with broadband competitor Cablevision over disingenuous advertising.

Verizon

A federal judge has ordered Cablevision to stop running advertisements that accuse Verizon of lying about offering its Fios broadband customers the fastest in-home Wi-Fi service. On Friday, Judge Gary Brown threw out Cablevision's lawsuit against Verizon, which was filed in January, accusing Verizon of misrepresenting its service. Then on Monday, he ruled in favor of Verizon's request for a temporary restraining order to put a stop to ads Cablevision has been running in the New York City metro area accusing Verizon of lying about its broadband Internet speeds, the quality of its DVR, service appointments and other aspects of its service.

Brown said that the Cablevision ads comparing Verizon to Pinocchio and ads depicting Verizon representatives with their "pants on fire," were "literally untrue and implicitly false."

"The law, like our economic system, encourages spirited competition," Brown said in his ruling granting Verizon's request for a temporary restraining order released Tuesday. "But when a competitor exceeds the bounds of decency by falsely impugning the integrity of a competitor, it runs afoul of the law."

The ruling is an important victory for Verizon, which has long battled Cablevision for broadband customers on Long Island, New York, and in other communities surrounding New York City. Verizon's Fios broadband network is built using fiber optics, which makes the potential for the speeds it delivers near limitless. Verizon today offers several tiers of service with speeds topping at 500 megabits per second for uploads as well as downloads.

Cablevision filed its lawsuit against Verizon in January alleging that Verizon's advertisements claiming to have "the fastest Wi-Fi available" were aimed at misleading customers as Cablevision launched its Wi-Fi calling service called Freewheel.

"Verizon's claim that it has faster WiFi than Cablevision is false, deceptive and designed to mislead consumers," Cablevision said in a press release in January. "Verizon has no public WiFi network. In addition, Verizon's in-home routers are not faster than Optimum Smart Routers and cost Verizon customers hundreds of dollars while Optimum's are free."

Cablevision said that through its deceptive advertising Verizon was trying to deter customers who might use the new Cablevision Wi-Fi calling service as a substitute for Verizon's own wireless service.

"It is not a coincidence that Verizon is making false Wi-Fi claims just as Cablevision is introducing its all-WiFi Freewheel phone, which will allow consumers to avoid Verizon's data caps and excessive data overage fees," the company added in its January press release.

In a statement released Tuesday, Cablevision said that the judge ruled Cablevision may continue to advertise that its Optimum WiFi network is a better data network than Verizon's service, and that the Optimum WiFi network offers a faster experience than cellular.

"Verizon continues its efforts to block Cablevision from setting the record straight," the company said in a statement. "And we will challenge Verizon's claims, not only through the legal system but also in the court of public opinion."

A Verizon representative praised the ruling.

"Cablevision's obfuscation of the truth is nothing but a campaign to keep accurate and factual information away from consumers," Susan Retta, vice president of consumer marketing for Verizon, said in a statement. "The Cablevision lawsuit and its other tactics have a great consequence, even if it's the opposite of what Cablevision had hoped."