Understanding your broadband speeds could be as simple as reading the nutrition label on the back of the food you buy at the grocery store by the end of this year.
The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to move forward with a new plan requiring Internet service providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, to offer new labels with the price, speed, and data rights of an Internet plan, including introductory rates and subsequent price increases, as well as network management practices, such as throttling, at the point of sale. This provides more transparency in the market rates and can lead to lower prices later on.
“Access to accurate, easy-to-understand information about broadband Internet access services helps consumers make informed choices and is essential for a well-functioning market,” the FCC said in a press release on Thursday.
Last summer, President Biden signed an executive order to promote competition in several markets, including telecommunications and Internet services. The order required the FCC to introduce new rules to give Internet subscribers more choice and better broadband Internet service. The agency acted on this order Thursday and started a comment process before the rules are due to take effect on Nov. 15.
“The ‘food labels’ we’re looking to 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 foster more innovation, more competition and lower broadband prices – benefits across the broadband ecosystem.”
Broadband “nutrition labels” are not a new idea. The labels were first introduced during the final year of the Obama administration, but failed to get off the ground under Trump. For years, consumers have complained about sudden price increases and surprise fees, and these labels would force providers to be more transparent with these changes.
The NCTA, a trade group for broadband providers, endorsed the label concept earlier in 2016. In a statement this week, the organization said, “Cable operators are committed to providing consumers with relevant information about broadband services.”