Six years after we saw the FCC formally propose “nutrition labels” for your carrier’s potentially confusing array of plans, the agency says it’s finally happening. This week, it’s ordering US internet service providers to adopt the label format you’re looking at below — or it will, as soon as some last bureaucratic elements get worked out.
They’ve changed a bit since 2016 — now, each plan will apparently have its own label rather than ISPs trying to cram all of them into a single sheet, they don’t warn you about coverage, and apparently, ISPs will be able to point you to their network management policy legalese instead of having to ding themselves for throttling data or giving some apps a fast lane. They won’t have to report packet loss, either, it seems.
Thankfully, ISPs will still need to report their typical speeds and latency, not just reiterate their advertised speed. Hopefully, someone will audit that.
Most big ISPs will have six months to slap the new labels onto their websites and distribute them in stores, though the FCC’s giving ones with less than 100,000 subscribers a full year to comply. But none of those shot clocks start until the Office of Management and Budget reviews the order to make sure it complies with the Paperwork Reduction Act and similar statutes, the FCC notes, so it might be a bit longer.
In the meanwhile, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel suggests that ISPs might want to get ahead of things and adopt them on their own.
The FCC also says it hopes these labels will evolve from here, so it’s seeking comment on some additional changes, too, including “more comprehensive pricing information, bundled plans, label accessibility, performance characteristics, service reliability, cybersecurity, network management and privacy issues, the availability of labels in multiple languages, and whether the labels should be interactive or otherwise formatted differently so the information contained in them is clearer and conveyed more effectively.”
None of this will solve the problem of broadband competition in the United States, but at least it might make the contracts easier to read!