The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted new rules requiring broadband internet service providers (ISPs) to display labels that enable consumers to easily compare broadband service offerings. The labels, which resemble nutrition labels, will display critical information such as prices, speeds, fees, and data allowances at the point of sale.
In January 2022, the FCC launched a rulemaking proceeding in response to a directive in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that required the commission to create consumer-friendly labels. The FCC’s proposed rules largely drew on the voluntary labels it had created in 2016, but never adopted. The FCC also hosted three public hearings on the content, format, and location of the labels and solicited the opinion of the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee, whose work formed the basis for the 2016 labels.
The newly adopted rules require ISPs to display:
- The monthly price for their service, including whether it is an introductory fee.
- Any additional charges and terms such as government taxes and early termination fees.
- Links to any billing discounts and pricing options for bundling with other services.
- Whether the ISP participates in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
- The speeds provided with the plan and data included in the monthly price.
- Links to the ISP’s network management and privacy policies as well as customer support information.
The FCC also adopted formatting and display requirements to better enable consumers to compare information across ISPs.
The labeling requirements apply to broadband internet access services ISPs offer for purchase, whether they are fixed or mobile. ISPs must present labels to customers at each point of sale, including on an ISP’s website and at other sales channels, such as at retail locations. While labels are not required on mass-marketing channels or before a customer specifies their service location, ISPs must display the actual label, not a link or icon, next to advertised plans. If ISPs cannot ensure that a customer can access the labels online at the point of sale, they may meet the labeling requirement by other means, such as by providing a hard copy of the label or, for purchases being made via phone call, by reading the entire label aloud to the customer.
Additionally, the FCC continues to seek comment on issues related to the labels, including:
- Whether the information included on the labels and the formatting requirements is sufficient.
- How to ensure the labels are accessible to those with disabilities or those who do not read English.
- How the FCC should handle labels submitted to the commission and how these labels should be displayed on its website.
Following approval of this new rule by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), ISPs with more than 100,000 subscriber lines will have six months to comply. Smaller ISPs will have 12 months to comply.
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