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FCC unanimously approves ‘nutrition labels’ for broadband services

FCC unanimously approves ‘nutrition labels’ for broadband services


It’s part of the Biden administration’s plan to boost market competition

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Image: Alex Castro / The Verge

Understanding your broadband speeds could be just as simple as reading the nutrition label on the back of the food you buy at the grocery store as soon as the end of this year.

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to press forward on a new plan that would require internet providers, like Comcast and Verizon, to offer new labels disclosing an internet plan’s price, speed, data allowances, including introductory rates and later price hikes, as well as network management practices, like throttling, at the point of sale. This allows for greater transparency into market rates and could lead to lower prices down the line. 

“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,” the FCC said in a press release on Thursday. 

“Arming consumers with better information will also promote greater innovation”

Last summer, President Biden signed an executive order to promote competition across markets, including telecommunications and internet service. The order required the FCC to institute new rules aimed at giving internet subscribers more choices and better broadband internet service. The agency acted on this order on Thursday, kicking off a commenting process before the rules are required to go into effect by November 15th.

“The ‘nutrition labels’ we seek comment on today will help households compare prices and service offerings, making it easier for them to find the right package and the best deal,” Democratic Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said in a statement on Thursday. “Arming consumers with better information will also promote greater innovation, more competition, and lower prices for broadband—wins for the entire broadband ecosystem.”

Broadband “nutrition labels” aren’t a new idea. The labels were first introduced during the last year of the Obama administration but failed to take off under Trump. For years, consumers have complained about sudden price hikes and surprise fees, and these labels would force providers to be more transparent with these changes.

The NCTA, a trade group for broadband providers, previously endorsed the labels concept in 2016. In a statement this week, the organization said, “Cable operators are committed to providing consumers with relevant information about broadband services.”