Broadband Providers Mandated to Show ‘Nutrition Labels’ Disclosing Full Pricing Information

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The labeling requirement comes from an FCC rule aimed at ensuring price transparency for consumers.

A rule by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requiring broadband service providers to clearly state all information regarding their plans via “nutrition labels” has come into effect.

In 2022, the FCC adopted rules mandating providers to display labels showing key information about their offerings at the point of sale, including prices, speeds, fees, introductory rates, discounts, privacy policies, network management practices, and data allowances. The new label listings resemble nutritional labels displayed on food items. The labeling requirement came into effect on April 10 for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with over 100,000 subscribers.

Smaller ISPs have time until Oct. 10 to comply. By this date, all ISPs are required to make the labels machine-readable, making it easier for third parties to collect and aggregate data for creating comparison tools for customers.

“Today is an exciting day for consumers. Broadband Nutrition Labels are finally here. Consumers across the country can now benefit from consistent, transparent, and accessible point-of-sale information about broadband prices and services,” the FCC’s chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said.

“These ‘nutrition label’ disclosures are designed to make it simpler for consumers to know what they are getting, hold providers to their promises, and benefit from greater competition, which means better service and prices for everyone.”

The first section of the label contains the service provider’s name as well as the name of the plan and/or the speed tier.

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In the next section, the monthly price is listed, clearly stating whether the quoted price is an introductory rate or not. If the rate is introductory, the label must specify the time period it applies to and the monthly price. The length of the contract and contract terms are also mentioned.

The third section contains information on additional charges and terms such as monthly fees, one-time purchase fees, early termination fees, and government taxes. Service providers must also mention the various discounts and bundle options in the fourth section.

Details about the speeds provided under the plan are mentioned in the fifth section including typical download, upload speed, and latency. The data included in the monthly price is stated in the sixth section, together with charges for additional data usage.

In the seventh section, there are links to the service provider’s privacy policy and network management policy, while the eighth section contains customer support information, specifically the phone number and the website.

FCC pointed out that the labels were designed to provide “clear, easy-to-understand, and accurate information” about the cost and performance of a broadband service.

Providers must display the labels “in close proximity” to a broadband plan’s advertisement, the agency stated. Labels must be shown at all points of sale, including online and in stores.

The labeling requirement comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by Congress in 2021 which directed the FCC to mandate consumer-friendly labels for broadband services.

Labeling Compliance

Multiple broadband service providers have already committed to the labels. Google launched its broadband nutrition labels in October 2023 for some of the company’s residential offerings.

At the time, Google claimed that its GFiber service had “always strived to provide clear pricing and value since day one” and that the company thought the requirements helped ensure transparent billing for broadband customers.

On April 1, T-Mobile said it would begin rolling out the labels beginning this month, starting with the company’s websites. “Later in the year, customers with currently sold plans will also be able to see Broadband labels for those plans in their account management portals.”

The “nutrition label” requirement had earlier faced strong opposition from some telecom industry groups. In August, representatives from America’s Communications Association, The Rural Broadband Association, The Broadband Association, and The Internet & Television Association met with FCC officials.

At the meeting, the associations said that the requirement adds “unnecessary complexity and burdens to the label for consumers and providers.”

Such an action “could result in some providers having to create many labels for any given plan. These unnecessary burdens would be felt by both small and large providers.”

In a June filing with the FCC, Comcast complained that employees and outside contractors would take many hours to create and deploy the initial group of labels.

“Beyond the initial implementation of the labels, Comcast will need to devote significant additional time and resources to ensure that the labels, once posted, remain up to date on an ongoing basis and are properly archived as the information on the labels change,” it stated.

“Comcast estimates it will need to create 251 separate broadband consumer labels to comply with the rules as of the initial.”

Customers have the option to file a complaint with the FCC if they find that a service provider is not displaying the required labels or is posting inaccurate information about its service plans or fees.

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