FCC approves plan to require broadband 'nutrition labels'

FCC building

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The Federal Communications Commission has voted to move forward with a plan to require broadband providers to offer "nutrition labels" containing critical information for consumers as soon as 2022.

On Thursday, the FCC unanimously approved the proposal, which would create new rules requiring broadband providers to offer labels disclosing an internet plan's pricing, data allowances, and throttling practices, as well as information on introductory prices and future price hikes.

The aim of the proposal is to increase transparency for consumers and boost competition in the marketplace.

"Access to accurate, simple-to-understand information about broadband internet access services helps consumers make informed choices and is central to a well-functioning marketplace that encourages competition, innovation, low prices, and high-quality service," the FCC wrote in a press release.

The proposal is one part of the FCC's plan to act on an executive order signed by President Joe Biden in July 2021. That order required the FCC to implement new regulations aimed at increasing consumer choice and bolstering broadband service quality.

The "nutrition labels" in question are based on voluntary disclosures approved by the FCC in 2016. Under the new rules, which could go into effect as soon as the latter half of 2022, broadband providers would be required to offer the information.

As part of the action on Thursday, the FCC is seeking comments on how consumers evaluate broadband plans, whether the labels will help consumers with the broadband shopping process, whether the 2016 labels should be updated, and where the labels should be displayed.

The NCTA, a trade group representing broadband providers, said it looks forward to working with the FCC on implementing the new labels. In a statement, the NCTA said that "cable operators are committed to providing consumers with relevant information about broadband services."