ISPs Petition FCC for Broadband Label Clarification

A sample broadband nutrition label

A sample broadband nutrition label (Image credit: FCC)

Broadband operators, including those represented by ACA Connects and NCTA–The Internet & Television Association, have asked the Federal Communications Commission to either clarify or reconsider two requirements in their rules implementing consumer broadband labels that they say may not pass legal muster otherwise.

Congress mandated the labels so consumers can better gauge just what kind of broadband service they are getting, including price, speed and quality.

While the label has to be on ISP websites, ads and in other marketing materials, it does not have to be on monthly bills.

In a joint petition for clarification or reconsideration filed with the FCC Tuesday (January 17) the associations said they generally support the adoption of the regulator’s label rules, which are based on the FCC’s 2016 voluntary labels, They do, however, have a bone to pick with two regulations they say “depart“ from that 2016 regime.

Also: FCC Approves Broadband Label Rules

The first is the requirement that operators itemize state and local government fees; the second is the mandate that ISPs “create and retain documentation” regarding “each instance when [a provider] directs a consumer to the label at an alternative sales channel,” i.e. in retail stores or phone interactions.

The associations said the first requirement could cause “significant” confusion for consumers and create unnecessary complexity for providers. They want the FCC to deem them in compliance if they either disclose that there are fees that change subject to state and local government action or, alternatively, if they identify the maximum dollar figure per month that could be passed through to consumers.

The alternative sales channel documentation requirement could represent unnecessary burdens “that risk diverting resources away from assisting customers in gaining helpful information,” NCTA and ACAC told the FCC. The groups want the FCC to clarify just what needs to be documented and that providers need only document how they display the information in those alternate channels, rather than having to document how consumers interacted with it. 

Without both clarifications, they warned, the FCC may be violating various laws including the Administrative Procedure Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which created the labeling mandate. ▪️

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.