Consumers who are frustrated by all the fine print used by internet service providers got a nice gift from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday. As an add-in to President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the agency unanimously agreed to new rules that would require broadband providers to show easy-to-understand labels that allow consumers to comparison shop for broadband services.
The new guidelines require broadband providers to display -- at the point of sale online or in a store -- labels that show prices (including introductory rates), plus data allowances, network management practices, and any other information that a consumer would deem important as part of their decision-making process.
This move couldn’t come at a better time. When it comes to the cost of internet service, the U.S. has a long way to go to be competitive. According to the CompareTheMarket, America is the 9th most expensive country for broadband – with it costing consumers an average of $66.13 per month.
Expectations from the proposed rule
If the FCC can get all the broadband companies pointed in the same direction on this initiative, the agency says it will make life easier for consumers when it comes to choosing a provider. It will also encourage those providers to innovate, compete, and offer consumers the lowest prices and the highest quality service.
“Americans today are benefiting from more choice, and they are seeing more competition for their broadband dollars than ever before. As a result, Internet speeds are up while prices are down,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said.
Carr said the Commission’s latest effort builds on its effort to make transparency a key component of everything consumer-related the agency has a say in.
“Right now, we have rules on the books, for instance, that require broadband providers to publicly disclose accurate information regarding their network management practices, performance characteristics, and commercial terms sufficient to enable consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs to make informed choices,” Carr stated.
Broadband provider trade group NCTA says consumers can count its members in on the FCC’s proposal. “Cable operators are committed to providing consumers with relevant information about broadband services,” the group said in a statement.