FCC Approves Broadband Label Rules

broadband, lights
(Image credit: Tim Robberts/Getty Images)

The Federal Communications Commission has approved rules for implementing the new broadband labels required by Congress.

The commission has been contemplating such a label for several years and came out with a voluntary version in 2016. The use of the label was since mandated in the Biden administration’s infrastructure act, with its billions in broadband subsidies, so the commission is at the task in earnest.

Sample FCC broadband label

A sample FCC broadband label (Image credit: FCC)

The FCC Report and Order, which is a final decision barring appeal, requires broadband providers to display the service “nutrition labels,” which include prices, speeds, fees, and any data allowances, at the point of sale. That means the actual label — not a link to the label or an icon — must be prominently displayed in proximity to any ads, as well as easily accessible to customers’ online account portals. The information has to be machine-readable.

While the label has to be on ISP web sites, ads and other marketing materials, it does not have to be on monthly bills, which did not please label fan Consumer Reports. "CR hopes the FCC will revisit this ruling and require ISPs to provide a broadband label on every monthly bill," CR said.

The FCC has also signaled it is willing to refine and improve the labels and adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking so that stakeholders can weigh in on those.

“By moving forward to implement broadband nutrition labels, the FCC will help empower consumers to make informed choices in today’s highly competitive broadband market," Jonathan Spalter, president of USTelecom-The Broadband Association, said. "Consumers have lots of options when selecting their services and these new labels should be a simple tool to help with comparison shopping.” ▪️

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.