FCC Slates Second Broadband Label Public Forum

Proposed 'Broadband Nutrition Label'
(Image credit: FCC)

The FCC will stream a second public hearing on consumer labels for broadband service.

The hearing will be April 11 at 1:30 p.m. and will be free to access at that time at fcc.gov/live.

The hearing will feature panels of consumers, academics and experts talking about making sure the labels have the specific info consumers need. The hearing will also include research on how consumers interpret information and make decisions based on that information.

The FCC has been collecting in put from industry and the public on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for how to implement the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Infrastructure Act) mandate that the FCC come up with "simple-to-understand labels that disclose, at the point of sale, accurate information about prices, introductory rates, data allowances, broadband speeds, and management practices..."

Anyone with questions they want to submit in advance of the hearing can e-mail them to BroadbandLabelsHearing@fcc.gov.

The FCC's first public meeting on the labels was March 11.

The FCC since 2016 has allowed ISPs voluntarily to use such so-called nutrition labels as proof that they are adhering to its transparency requirements. But chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel made clear that the difference now is the label is mandated.

The FCC is proposing to use that 2016 label format, which resembles a food nutrition label, as the mandated one, but asks whether there need to be any changes or additions.

Among the provisions in the Biden administration’s Infrastructure Act — which allocated billions of dollars for broadband, including subsidies for broadband service — was that the FCC mandate the broadband “nutrition label” so consumers can know the speed and quality of service they are getting at what price and with what fees attached.

According to the FCC NPRM, the label has to include “accurate information about prices, introductory rates, data allowances and broadband speeds,” as well as “management practices.” Any ISP that does not hew to the letter of the label could be pursued by the Federal Trade Commission under its authority to prevent “false and deceptive” advertising.

The labels must be accessible to the disabled and must promote equity in the provision of service.

The FCC item asks a number of questions, including on how to ensure the accuracy of the labels' content and the proper implementation timelines. ■

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.