FCC moves forward with plans to require broadband 'nutrition labels'

The new rules would require internet service providers to display easy-to-understand labels to help consumers comparison shop.

The US Federal Communications Commission on Thursday proposed new rules that would require internet service providers (ISPs) to prominently display easy-to-understand labels to help consumers comparison shop for broadband services. Under the proposal, ISPs would have to display the labels -- modeled after nutrition labels found on food packaging -- at the point of sale. 

The proposed labels show prices, speeds, data allowances, network management practices, and other key broadband service information. 

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An example of a blank label for fixed broadband.

FCC

"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 that encourages competition, innovation, low prices, and high-quality service," the FCC wrote in a release Thursday.

The FCC first approved this style of label for ISPs to display on a voluntary basis in 2016. Now, ISPs will be required to display this kind of information under the recently-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The bill also included more than $65 billion to build out broadband networks and make broadband more affordable. Under the new law, the FCC has a year to set up the new broadband labeling requirements. 

The next step is for the FCC to hear from the public. The agency is seeking comments on things like: how consumers evaluate broadband service plans; whether the 2016 labels will assist consumers with the purchase process; whether the 2016 labels should be updated in terms of content and format; and whether the commission should provide new guidance about where broadband providers must display such labels.

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