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FCC Mandates 'Nutrition Label'-Style Price Transparency for Internet Services

New labels will tell customers about download speed, upload speed, latency and more of a given plan
Cover Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by Dreamlike Street
Cover Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by Dreamlike Street

With the Federal Communications Commission’s new rules rolling out on Wednesday, internet users across the country will now have more transparency about their broadband services. The FCC mandates broadband providers to display all the information about the price, speed, performance, and more of their plans in clear nutritional style labels. While larger broadband internet providers will have to provide the new breakdowns from April 10, the smaller providers with fewer subscribers have been allowed time till October 10 to implement the new broadband labels.

Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by Frederik Lipfert
Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by Frederik Lipfert

From April 10, the new labels are required to tell customers about the typical download speed, upload speed, and latency for a given plan. The labels will also show the amount of data provided in a plan and the details, and charges of additional data usage as per FCC's official document.

The labels will also show customers if the monthly price of their plan is an introductory rate, if it is then how long the rate applies, and the monthly rate after the introductory rate.

The labels must display the extra charges and the terms and conditions of the plans, one-time fees, early termination fees, data caps, network practices such as speed throttling, and tax details. Information on discounts, and bundles, must also be included with a link to a website with full details.

The FCC also mandates broadband labels to include links to the provider's network management policy, privacy policy, and phone and website information for customer support.

Alejandro Roark, FFC’s bureau chief for consumer and government affairs, said that the labels will need to be easily accessible with the plan and the providers can’t bury them in fine print, or on separate webpages, CNN reported. Customers should be able to access the labels anytime they pay their bills or want to compare plans from different providers.

By the October 10, deadline, providers will also be required to make their new labels machine-readable so that third parties can more easily collect and aggregate data for the purpose of creating comparison-shopping tools for consumers.

The new broadband label requirement comes in response to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, the FCC noted in its official release. The act instructs the FCC to develop consumer-friendly labels with information about broadband services. The FCC first adopted the rules in 2022 and has now finally implemented them for providers.

“The FCC borrowed the nutrition label model format from food products because we wanted to make basic information about broadband internet service easily recognizable and easy to understand,” Roark, told reporters on a conference call, CNN mentioned.

Despite taking steps towards consumer-friendly policies in the area of broadband accessibility, several Americans are still out of reach, the FCC found in a report last month. Tens of millions of Americans still don’t have access to high-speed internet, particularly in rural and tribal areas, where roughly a quarter of Americans lack broadband.

About 23 million households, or nearly 1 in 5 U.S. households are at risk of losing their internet plans due to the looming end of the popular federal Affordable Connectivity Program, according to reports. This will force people to choose between paying for the internet or paying for other essential costs.