FCC gives ISPs 6 months to display broadband 'nutrition' labels for their plans

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially approved new rules which will require ISPs to display broadband “nutrition” labels that  help consumers compare and contrast various broadband plans. These uniform point-of-sale labels mimic nutrition labels at the grocery store to easily define facts about broadband services that get lost in the fine print for consumers, like pricing, data caps, speed and more for wireless and wired services.

“Broadband is an essential service, for everyone, everywhere. Because of this, consumers need to know what they are paying for, and how it compares with other service offerings,”  FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.

Broadband providers will be required to prominently display their labels online for consumer review and create accessible portals on personal accounts so that customers can swiftly see the label associated with their services. These measures also require that broadband providers optimize their public-facing label data to ensure that third-party websites can easily scrape the data to compare and contrast plans for consumers easily.

Most ISPs will have six months to comply with the new rules, though those with 100,000 or fewer subscribers will have up to one year.

The rules were adopted after three hearings with the public, advocates, industry experts and government officials that began in January 2022. The FCC’s efforts come after direction from The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to create easy-to-understand labels so that consumers have a way to make more informed decisions on their options for broadband services. The new label is inspired by voluntary labels that the FCC approved in a 2016 Public Notice.

According to the FCC, these labels are the first step in helping create more transparency in the broadband marketplace so that consumers know exactly what type of plan they’re paying for and can shop around for the qualities that are important to them as they see fit. The FCC also noted that this transparency will encourage competition in the marketplace so that industry rivals can heighten the quality of their services or lower price-points for customers.

Industry group Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) welcomed the FCC’s framework for instituting the labels, especially considering how it could help smaller companies compete in the space.

“It will help consumers better understand their internet access purchases, enabling them to quickly see ‘under the hood,’” noted WISPA. “We look forward to working with the FCC, consumer advocates and other stakeholders on the remaining questions before the agency.”

Alongside the new rules, the commission adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to revisit its order to explore more opportunities to refine labels for consumers.