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August 30, 2015

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Battle for high-speed Internet customers brings lawsuit

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Cox Communications is accusing phone company CenturyLink of false advertising in a lawsuit filed last week. Cox Communications’ Henderson Retail and Payment Center is shown here.

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Fierce competition for Internet customers in Las Vegas now includes a lawsuit in which cable company Cox Communications accuses phone company CenturyLink of false advertising.

Cox filed suit Friday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas claiming CenturyLink, formerly known as Embarq, has been running advertisements that are misleading by failing to disclose pricing details.

Cox also disputes CenturyLink ads claiming that CenturyLink’s service, compared to Cox’s, is consistently fast no matter how many people are online.

Cox complained that CenturyLink ads promoting "100% Yours" services -- suggesting a direct connection to the Internet -- are false because CenturyLink does not provide a direct, unshared connection to the Internet.

"Cox's high speed Internet service consistently provides a high level of speed performance to its customers, even during times of peak usage on its network," the Cox lawsuit says. "CenturyLink customers do not receive superior speed performance compared to Cox customers during times of peak usage and the download speeds that CenturyLink customers receive can be affected by various congestion-related factors, including traffic levels on the extensive shared Internet backbone and on remote third-party networks."

The lawsuit also complained that while CenturyLink has offered Internet access with speeds up to 10 Mbps (megabits per second), suggesting a price of $29.95 a month, CenturyLink actually charges $54.95 per month for that 10 Mbps service unless the customer accepts a bundling deal. Even with the telephone service bundling deal, the price for 10 Mbps is $39.95 per month, Cox complained.

Asked about the lawsuit, CenturyLink issued this statement Monday: "CenturyLink is confident that its advertising complies with all applicable practices and laws. We intend to fully and vigorously defend this lawsuit.’’

An attorney for CenturyLink, in letters sent to Cox in recent months, has also said CenturyLink modified one of the ads in question in response to Cox's concerns, but otherwise said CenturyLink's advertising is accurate.

"CenturyLink's advertising of its High-Speed Internet service is truthful," CenturyLink attorney Daniel Hubert in Overland Park, Kan., wrote in a Nov. 24 letter, referring to its system of connecting customer homes with the CenturyLink fiber-optic network.

"It is settled that DSL (digital subscriber line) architecture provides for a dedicated connection for customers to the provider's network. This design differs significantly from Cox's High-Speed Internet service that shares the same cable segment when connecting many users to its service," he wrote.

Hubert wrote that while Cox is dealing with network congestion caused when many people use the Cox network at the same time or are using lots of bandwidth, "CenturyLink is confident in its ability to handle its customers' ever-growing appetite for an exceptional, high-capacity High-Speed Internet service."

Cox complained in a Nov. 13 letter about ads that read: "Unlike Cox, (CenturyLink's service is) consistently fast no matter how many people are online."

In response to that complaint, CenturyLink added details about its High-Speed Internet Service to its advertising, Hubert wrote.

In a second letter on Jan. 14, Hubert denied that CenturyLink ads about pricing and "100% Yours" connections for CenturyLink and Pure Internet service are misleading.

"CenturyLink firmly believes it sufficiently discloses the pricing, available speeds and other requirements in the offers Cox cited," Hubert wrote.

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