FCC Broadband Facts Label

In comments filed with the FCC, broadband service provider associations urged the commission not to complicate the consumer labels that will be required at the point of sale for broadband services.

The commission should strive for “simplicity” in the labels by “only including that information that will give consumers meaningful insight into the broadband plans they are considering without including hypertechnical information that is meaningless to consumers and would overburden providers,” said USTelecom in its comments.

In comments filed jointly, NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) also cautioned the FCC about the risk of overburdening providers.

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Their specific recommendations include:

  • Requiring a simple, consumer-friendly broadband label that includes information on speed and other key performance parameters, but excludes the requirement to disclose packet loss metrics or data related to bundled services and other governmental programs
  • Replacing the existing disclosure requirements with the simplified broadband label
  • Allowing small providers additional time to comply with the new rules adopted in this proceeding

Broadband Labels

In 2016, the FCC had planned to require broadband consumer labels similar in concept to the nutrition labels found on food items sold in the U.S. Plans for the labels, sometimes referred to as “broadband nutrition labels,” were scrapped when Ajit Pai took over as FCC chairman in 2017 but came to life again in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) adopted late this year.

In comments filed separately in the new broadband label proceeding, both ACA Connects and NCTA—The Internet & Television Association advised the FCC not to “reinvent the wheel” in establishing requirements for the labels.

According to both associations, considerable stakeholder input went into the plans for the label that were made in 2016 and the commission shouldn’t tamper with those plans.

ACA Connects offered several recommendations, some aimed at minimizing the implementation burden on providers, including:

  • Affirm that providers may disclose actual performance, i.e., actual speeds and latency, using methodologies that were approved in 2011 and were re-affirmed in 2016
  • Adopt label requirements only for service plans available for purchase, and focus labels on standard monthly rates that are readily comparable across providers and offerings
  • Decline to require “direct notifications” that are duplicative of notices that providers already routinely provide to their existing subscribers
  • Follow the FCC’s well-established guidelines for disclosure of labels “at the point of sale,” while also allowing direct submission of labels to the Commission
  • Omit disclosure of “packet loss” and “subscriber-triggered network management practices” from the broadband label
  • Affirm that the display of broadband labels satisfies a provider’s transparency disclosure obligations

INCOMPAS, the internet and competitive networks association, argued in its filing that a broadband label will “assist consumers in better understanding and comparing the different [broadband] services in the marketplace, which we believe will help them choose competitors’ superior service offerings.”

The association urged the FCC to allow providers the option of distinguishing their offerings by adding speed symmetry and reliability to their labels and to denote service level agreements if offered.

INCOMPAS also argued that providers shouldn’t be required to provide labels to larger business or government customers because those customers typically negotiate the terms of their service contracts. Labels also should not be required for E-rate and rural healthcare providers because doing so would be “redundant to the competitive bidding process,” the association said.

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