Internet service providers will soon be required to publish “nutrition labels” that list the actual cost of them Servicesbreaking down hidden charges, data caps, speed promises and information on when discounts expire, the Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday. The labels will make it much easier to compare in a market where real prices are often hidden behind hidden costs and confusing bills.
The FCC-mandated label is intended to provide clear pricing information, including additional charges (such as device rental costs), when promotional discounts expire, details about limits and data caps, and information about expected speed and performance. ISPs will be forced to display the label right next to the advertised service offering, not buried in a link to another page. The broadband labels will also be machine-readable, making it easy for investigators, regulators and consumer advocates to gather information and track prices across the country.
“Our rules require broadband nutrition labels to be displayed in full when a consumer is making a purchasing decision,” FCC Chair said Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement. “That means consumers will have simple, easy-to-read facts about price, speed, data caps and other aspects of high-speed Internet service up front.”
The new rules came on the same day as one groundbreaking study of 22.00 internet bills organized by Consumer Reports, which exposed a number of techniques ISPs use to jack up prices, including surprise fees, misleading promises about internet speeds, a lack of competition and incomprehensible bills.
“The broadband label is an important tool for cleaning up ISP bills that are too often vague and confusing for a variety of reasons,” said Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy advisor at Consumer Reports, in a press release. “We applaud the FCC for taking the first step in requiring ISPs to display pricing information with an easy-to-read broadband label.”
There are a number of steps involved before your ISPs will be required to display the labels. After the new rules are reviewed by the FCC’s Office of Management and Budget and published to the federal register, ISPs will have six months to a year to comply with the regulation, depending on the size of the company.
The problems facing broadband customers (i.e. the majority of American households) have multiplied in recent years. During ex-president Donald Trump’s administration, the FCC gave a gift to the broadband industry by reclassifying internet service as an “information service,” which it has little authority to regulate, leaving providers with almost no regulatory scrutiny. Now, a less business-friendly FCC is making big strides towards regaining control, and tipping the scales back in favor of consumers.
Nutrition labels are and growing trend in the tech industry, an arena where business practices are easier to hide thanks to the complexity of modern technology. Apple and Google recently released nutrition labels for their app stores, requiring developers to publish information about app privacy and security practices.