FCC rolls out consumer-friendly broadband labels

A new consumer labeling system for broadband internet services being sold in the US is taking effect Wednesday across the nation.

Beginning April 10th, all US telecommunication providers selling broadband internet services will be required to use a consumer-friendly labeling system on their products and services, both in stores and online.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which created the system, says the labels will “provide clear, easy-to-understand, and accurate information about the cost and performance of high-speed internet services."

The tags will make it easier for shoppers to pick a plan that matches their needs and budget – without having to navigate confusing promotional offers that often leave the consumer paying for undisclosed costs once they start receiving monthly bills.

“Transparency is central to a well-functioning marketplace that encourages competition, innovation, low prices, and high-quality service,” the FCC said.

The FCC said it designed the labels to look like FDA food nutrition labels, but instead of serving size and calories, the labels will provide detailed information about the product being offered, including:

  • Provider name
  • Service plan name/ or internet speed tier
  • Length of contract
  • Monthly cost
  • Introductory rate
  • Termination fees
  • Data allowances and extra costs
  • Download and upload speeds
  • Links to network management practices and privacy policies
  • Any other additional one time and/or monthly charges

Internet service providers that offer home, or fixed, internet services, or mobile broadband plans are required to have a label for each service plan they offer, the rule dictates.

"Consumers will finally get information they can use to comparison shop, avoid junk fees, and make informed choices about which high-speed internet service is the best fit for their needs and budget," FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said.

The industry-wide standardized labels must be fully displayed in stores and online purchasing pages and "cannot be buried in multiple clicks or reduced to a link or icon that a consumer might miss," Rosenworcel said.

FCC Broadband consumer transparency rule
FCC sample of new Broadband Consumer Label, which will be required by US providers starting on April 10th, 2024. Image by Cybernews.

Templates were created by the communications regulatory agency to help providers customize labels for each product it sells.

If a provider is not displaying their labels or has posted inaccurate information about its fees or service plans, consumers can file a complaint with the FCC Consumer Complaint Center.

Under the new transparency rule – which was adopted under the Broadband Label Order in November 2022, after being a voluntary measure since 2016 – the providers must also make the labels bar code or QR code compatible.

Some of the major US telecom giants, such as Verizon, began voluntarily using the labels in March. Providers with less than 100,000 subscribers have until October 10th to integrate them into their point-of-sale locations.

The FCC has provided a glossary index of terms used on the consumer broadband labels to help avoid any confusion.