FCC Rules Require ISPs Provide Broadband Nutrition Labels

The Federal Communications Commission has unveiled specifics for new labels that clarify hidden fees and surprise rate hikes on consumer broadband services. Broadband providers will be required to display, at the point of sale, labels that show key information about prices, speeds, fees, data allowances, and other key information using a format that resembles the familiar “nutrition labels” that appear on food products. Emphasizing broadband as “an essential service, for everyone, everywhere,” FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the labeling rules apply to both wired and wireless services.

“Access to accurate, simple-to-understand information about broadband Internet access services helps consumers make informed choices and is central to a well-functioning marketplace that encourages competition, innovation, low prices, and high-quality service,” the FCC wrote in its news release.

TechCrunch applauds the change, writing that “with broadband providers, if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile and then slow-roll it all the way to the Supreme Court if they think it’ll be more profitable that way. So the labels must be completely standard, machine-readable, and ‘on the main purchasing pages that providers have online. That means they cannot be buried in multiple clicks or reduced to a link or icon that a consumer might miss.’”

With the information presented in this clear and consistent format, consumers will have an easier time comparing rates and services among competing companies, “like comparing two brands of cereal,” writes TechCrunch, noting that the idea has been percolating for a while (ETCentric first reported on this six years ago),“but the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act made it possible to take it over the finish line.”

It will be at least a year before the new labeling goes into effect, after review by the Office of Management and Budget, with a specific start date to be announced later.

The FCC is also seeking comments “on ways it can enhance the newly-adopted label in the future, including different ways to display broadband performance information,” Advanced Television apprises, noting that “to ensure the label benefits all consumers, the Commission adopted language and accessibility requirements for the label’s display.”

Machine readability and availability to customers through their online account portal are among the accessibility requirements.

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