Price, speed all that’s needed on FCC broadband labels, industry groups say

A number of broadband providers and industry groups urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stick to price and speed on its proposed broadband “nutrition” labels, arguing the inclusion of other metrics like packet loss could end up confusing consumers.

Back in January, the FCC kicked off a rulemaking process to implement labels for broadband service which mimic the nutrition information displayed on grocery items, reviving an initiative first begun in 2016. As part of its procedure, the FCC asked stakeholders to weigh in on what data should be included.

In a joint comment filing, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) and NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association told the FCC the labels should only include “actionable” information detailing the critical elements of the service consumers are considering, such as price and speed. However, they advised that attempting to include other specifics around packet loss and network management practices could prove pointless.

“If the category of information is not typically requested by the consumer, then including it in the label will not serve any measured goal,” they wrote.

AT&T, Lumen and US Telecom made a similar arguments about packet loss in their own filings. “Consumers today choose broadband plans overwhelmingly on the basis of price and speed,” AT&T wrote. “Consumers do not consider packet loss relevant to their purchasing decisions; indeed, most consumers have no idea what packet loss is or how to interpret the measurements, and thus could be confused or misled by such data.”

USTelecom backed the inclusion of latency metrics, but said monthly fees aside from equipment fees should be lumped together in an “other monthly fees” category. AT&T agreed latency was fine to include, but said the FCC should note require this to be based on peak usage times but instead use a metric based on 24-hour averages.

Meanwhile, the Fiber Broadband Association pressed the FCC to add a spot to the label specifying what network technology a provider is using, citing evidence that consumers are increasingly interested in this data.

“There is more than sufficient evidence in the market that consumers recognize there are differences in technologies delivering broadband service and use that information in selecting a broad[band] provider,” it wrote. “We urge the Commission to include such information in its broadband consumer labels.”