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TELECOM REPORTER

Beware, Corporate Canada, of claiming to be the "best." Or the "fastest." Or the "most reliable." Because if history is our guide, you shall end up in court - over and over again.

In the latest skirmish of the telecom ad wars, Bell Aliant Regional Communications Income Fund is taking Rogers Communications Inc. to court in New Brunswick over claims about its Internet service. However, one expert said, debates over subjective claims will become irrelevant as providers start offering similar speeds and begin to compete solely on price and add-ons.

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Rogers, which said it stands behind its advertising, is no stranger to this game. In December, it won an injunction against BCE Inc.'s Bell Mobility unit, which had advertised its wireless network as being the "most reliable." A month earlier, Rogers was forced to drop its own "most reliable" claim after being challenged in court by Telus Corp.

This time, it's Internet and not wireless, but the claim remains the same. Bell Aliant has been rolling out a fibre-optic high-speed Internet service in New Brunswick since July. It has invested $60-million in the project and is displeased about Rogers' claims that its Internet service is "the fastest and most reliable. Period."

"We believe that their advertising is false and misleading. And in particular, in comparison to our FibreOp Internet product, which has superior upload and download speeds," said Bell Aliant spokesperson Isabelle Robinson.

"We had addressed our concerns directly with Rogers on several occasions, essentially with no response."

In an e-mail, Rogers spokesperson Terrie Tweddle said Rogers' claims were supported by "independent testing" and that Rogers' customers "benefit from the fastest and most reliable speeds which we look forward to proving in court."

On Rogers' website, it appears independent testing compares Rogers' Internet speeds to DSL Internet, provided on a phone line. The new Aliant network employs advanced fibre-to-the-home technology, which is different.

"Fibre-to-the-home would be faster than cable," said Michael Wade, an associate professor of IT strategy at the Schulich School of Business. Claims of reliability are more nebulous, he added, but one thing seemed certain: As the minute differences between high-speed Internet services start to blur, subjective claims will fade away to be replaced by considerations, such as value or additional services.

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"It's just marketing, really," Mr. Wade added. "When it comes down to it, like with any commodity, it's just going to come down to who's got the lowest price."

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