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Nutrition labels, but for your internet service

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Nutrition labels, but for your internet service

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Notices similar to nutrition labels are coming to the broadband service.

The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to move forward with a plan that would require broadband internet providers to display the new labels at the point of sale in the interest of transparency.

“Access to accurate, easy-to-understand information about broadband Internet access services helps consumers make informed choices and is central to a well-functioning marketplace,” the FCC said in a notice. The vote was 4-0.

The labels are a takeoff of the “nutrition facts” that appeared on most packaged foods soon after Congress required them in 1990.

Similar to how food labels describe the contents of a package, broadband labels would disclose data allowances and broadband speeds, as well as pricing information.

The plan still has to go through a comment period before taking effect, so businesses, broadband customers and others can weigh in on details like how the FCC will ensure the accuracy of information about the stickers.

New leaflets for high-speed Internet services are being rolled out based on the model of nutritional food labels.FCC

The comment period is expected to last at least a few months, but a law signed by President Joe Biden in November requires the FCC to give final approval to labels this year. They might start appearing soon after.

A 2019 survey by Consumer Reports found that cable companies charge customers an average of 24% more on top of the advertised price. In a Consumer Reports survey, 64% of respondents rated the extra fees as “extremely” or “very” annoying.

The idea of ​​a transparency label on Internet services has been around since at least 2009, when the New America Foundation, a liberal group in Washington, proposed them.

“Hidden fees, surprise bills and dense contracts are familiar issues to anyone dealing with these companies,” said Joshua Stager, deputy director of broadband and competition policy at the Open Technology Institute of New America, in a statement on the FCC vote.

“The broadband nutrition label eliminates this confusion by clearly disclosing cost and terms of service in a simple, user-friendly format,” Stager said.

The FCC considered a requirement for broadband labels in 2016, the final year of the Obama administration. The proposal then languished under the Trump administration.

In November, as part of the recently passed federal infrastructure package, Biden signed legislation requiring the FCC to move forward with the 2016 plan within a year.

NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, a trade group for broadband providers – was part of a committee that approved the 2016 plan at the time. The association said in a statement this week that it looked forward to working with the FCC on implementation.

“Cable operators are committed to providing consumers with relevant information about broadband services,” the association said.

Another trade group, the CTIA, which represents mobile internet service providers, argued in 2016 that its voluntary code of conduct for businesses was sufficient. The CTIA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the FCC vote.

(Comcast, owner of NBC News, is a member of both trade associations.)

Nutrition labels, but for your internet service

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