FCC mandated nutrition labels for most broadband plans

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It appears that a nearly eight-year-long battle by the FCC to require internet companies to display information on the costs, fees, and speeds of their broadband services is finally over.
Starting on Wednesday, all but the smallest ISPs will be required to publish broadband “nutrition labels” on all of their plans, the regulator announced.
The FCC’s intention behind the labels is that they’ll allow consumers to more easily comparison shop between plans and avoid any hidden fees.
The next time you shop for either a standalone home or fixed internet plan, or a new mobile broadband plan, you should notice such a label.
Each label will include monthly broadband prices, introductory rate details, data allowances, broadband speeds, and links to find out about any available discounts or service bundles.
In the past, the broadband industry has published advertised speeds for broadband plans that misrepresent the actual connection speeds available for most customers.
The new labels should cut down on this practice; ISPs must now publish “typical” download and upload speeds with each plan.
Adding to the sense of urgency is that a program that gives low-income Americans additional money to purchase broadband internet plans is set to expire at the end of the month.

NEUTRAL

It looks that the FCC’s nearly eight-year fight to make internet service providers disclose the prices, charges, and speeds of their broadband services is finally coming to an end. The regulator declared that as of this Wednesday, all ISPs—aside from the tiniest ones—must post broadband “nutrition labels” on every plan. In order to help consumers compare plans more easily and steer clear of any hidden costs, the FCC created the labels.

You should see a label like this the next time you shop for a new mobile broadband plan, a stand-alone home or fixed internet plan, or both. Every label will list the monthly cost of broadband, information about introductory rates, data allotments, broadband speeds, and links to information about any available savings or service packages. Links to privacy policies and network management procedures ought to be included as well. In-person and virtual retailers should both display the labels.

The majority of the data on the labels is accessible to the general public, but it would take some effort and investigation on the part of the typical consumer to figure out. The broadband industry has previously published advertised speeds for plans that are not accurate representations of the actual connection speeds that the majority of customers can get. ISPs are now required to publish “typical” upload and download speeds with each plan, which should reduce the practice of using the old labels.

Over the years, major internet providers have battled hard to overturn the rule, claiming that implementing such labels would be too expensive and difficult. The FCC is criticized by some consumer advocates as well for ignoring the more significant issue of regional broadband monopolies. Many Americans only have one or two options when it comes to their broadband provider, particularly those who live in rural or less affluent areas. An additional reason for the urgency is that at the end of the month, a program that provides low-income Americans with extra funds to purchase broadband internet plans, is scheduled to expire.

Incentives to reduce costs and increase speeds are minimal for regional ISPs that have one or no competitors. Although the telecom industry is undoubtedly making every effort to thwart this, dozens of cities have attempted to tackle the issue independently by constructing their own municipal broadband networks.

Thus far, labels have been made available before the deadline by Verizon, Google Fiber, and T-Mobile. Small ISPs (those with fewer than 100,000 lines) have until October 10th to implement the nutritional labels, even though the FCC’s official deadline for compliance (if you’re a major ISP) is April 10th.

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