New FCC Ruling will Require Internet Services to Provide ‘Nutrition Labels’ Displaying Speeds and More

Today the Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to move ahead with a plan to require broadband companies to display important plan information on easy to read labels so customers will know upfront what they’re getting.

This means big broadband names like Comcast and Verizon and will have to provide ‘nutrition labels’ disclosing things like speed, data caps, throttling and other management tactics, as well as introductory prices and later price hikes to customers at the time of sale.

The FCC has taken action on this “Broadband Nutrition Label” as part of the infrastructure law signed in November. The new ruling will make it easier for consumers to know at a glance what to expect from their broadband contract to eliminate surprises and hidden fees later on. Just like a nutrition label on a food item, consumers can make informed decisions and comparisons when shopping for an internet provider.

“Access to accurate, simple-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 press release on Thursday.

The idea of these labels has been circulating for years now but has never taken off until today. Somewhat surprisingly, the The NCTA, a trade group for broadband providers, endorsed the idea back in 2016 and have now issued a statement saying that they’re still on board.

“Cable operators are committed to providing consumers with relevant information about broadband services,” the NCTA said in a statement this week.

“The ‘nutrition labels’ we seek comment on today will help households compare prices and service offerings, making it easier for them to find the right package and the best deal,” Democratic Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said in a statement on Thursday. “Arming consumers with better information will also promote greater innovation, more competition, and lower prices for broadband—wins for the entire broadband ecosystem.”

The 4-0 ruling was passed today, but it will still be some time before these mandated labels go into effect.