FCC Extends Comment Period on Broadband Labels

Broadband 'Nutrition' label
The FCC’s broadband ‘nutrition’ label.

Citing the proximity to various holidays, the Federal Communications Commission is giving commenters more time to weigh in on the broadband labels it will require internet-service providers to display, providing consumers with info on just what service they are getting.

That came after more than a dozen and a half groups asked for the extension. The comments had been due February 14. Now, they won't be due until March 16. While the groups asked for two months, the FCC said 30 days should be enough.

“Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. are all within the comment period, shortening the normal time for drafting and filing comments,” the FCC said. “We agree with Free Press and the others that an extension will more fully develop the record in this proceeding while affording commenters more ability to participate in other important, consumer-oriented proceedings.”

The FCC does not routinely grant extensions, it pointed out, though it does often grant them around holidays.

Back in November, the FCC approved a proposal for new rules implementing the labels, which were required by Congress.

The FCC 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.

The labels require broadband providers to display the service’s “nutrition” information, including 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 must be machine-readable.

As adopted, while the label has to be on ISP websites, in ads and in other marketing materials, it does not have to be on monthly bills, which did not please Consumer Reports.

But while the rules were adopted in a Report and Order, which is essentially a final FCC action, the commission also signaled it was not that final. The FCC said 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 refinements.

It is that Further Notice that commenters want more time to talk about. ▪️

John Eggerton

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.