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USA consumer panel 'consistency score' for broadband labels

USA consumer panel 'consistency score' for broadband labels

The FCC has proposed new rules requiring broadband providers to display easy-to-understand labels allowing consumers to compare broadband services.

The Federal Communications Commission has stated that access to accurate, simple-to-understand information about broadband internet access services helps consumers make informed choices. The FCC considers this central to a well-functioning marketplace that encourages competition, innovation, low prices, and high-quality service.

A broadband provision in the Biden administration's infrastructure law requires the FCC to adopt regulations for a consumer-friendly broadband label by November 2022. A current proposal would require broadband providers to display labels that show pricing, including introductory rates, speeds, data allowances, network management practices, and other critical broadband service information at the point of sale.

This proposal is based on voluntary labels which the Commission approved in 2016.

"If you walk into any grocery store and pull boxes of cereal from the shelves, you can easily compare calories and carbohydrates”.
“That's because they have a common nutrition label. It helps consumers make good choices. I think the Federal Communications Commission needs to do the same with broadband. That's because it is now an essential service."


Jessica Rosenworcel

Chairwoman, Federal Communications Commission

In a filing on May 9, advocacy organisation Next Century Cities expressed support for this approach, telling the FCC it's just as important to have the label appear on monthly bills as it is at the point of sale.

"Including the ‘Consumer Broadband Nutrition Label (CBNL) on a consumer's monthly bill would not only allow them the opportunity to compare recurring charges against what was originally promised,”

“It would also provide consumers with an opportunity to re-evaluate whether the original plan selected actually fits evolving household demands."

wrote Francella Ochillo, executive director, and Ryan Johnston, federal policy counsel

Ochillo and Johnston point out that having a CBNL on a monthly bill is just as important as having access to that information at the original point of sale. They recommend standardizing the CBNL, as this would be the most effective way of ensuring broadband subscriptions are comparable across service providers. Furthermore, they have suggested that the FCC develop a glossary that explains key terms, which will make the CBNL more accessible for consumers who have no technical expertise.

However, ACA Connects, a group representing small and midsized broadband service providers, urged FCC to avoid 'extraneous requirements' for new broadband labels, claiming this would introduce ‘confusion’. The group believes guidance on ‘point of sale’ disclosures is sufficient and wants the FCC to reject calls to display labels on marketing materials.


Example of broadband nutrition label from 2016 proposal. Source: FCC
Jessica Rosenworcel, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman

US cities increasingly consider broadband as 'critical infrastructure'

US city planners are increasingly looking to add broadband services to their offering, according to a new survey of 101 local and regional government executives and managers conducted by Probolsky Research.

  • More than 80% of survey respondents listed broadband as "critical infrastructure" and placed connectivity improvements and upgrades near the top of their priority project list.
  • 94% said broadband is crucial for educated, informed citizens
  • 51% of communities have plans to increase the use of technology to modernize infrastructure
  • 91% believe Internet access is critical to future economic growth
  • 57% agreed that communities need public-private partnerships "to accomplish needed infrastructure projects."