The FCC has adopted rules that require broadband providers to display easy-to-understand labels to allow consumers to comparison shop for broadband services. The rules require broadband providers to display, at the point of sale, labels that show prices, including introductory rates, as well as speeds, data allowances, and other critical broadband service information.
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 rules respond to direction in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for the FCC to require providers to create consumer-friendly labels with information about their broadband services.
In a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Commission announced it is seeking comment on issues related to more comprehensive pricing information, bundled plans, label accessibility, performance characteristics, service reliability, cybersecurity, network management and privacy issues, the availability of labels in multiple languages, and whether the labels should be interactive or otherwise formatted differently so the information contained in them is clearer and conveyed more effectively. The comment due date and reply comment date were extended. For the extended deadline, comments were due on February 16, 2023 and reply comments were due on March 16, 2023.
Public Hearings on the Proposed Rules
The Infrastructure Act required the FCC to adopt regulations within a year of its passage and to conduct a series of public hearings to help inform the labeling requirements.
The FCC held three public hearings as a part of its broadband consumer labels rulemaking proceeding. The hearings assessed how consumers evaluate internet service plans and whether current disclosures are sufficient.
The first hearing took place March 11, 2022. The purpose of the first hearing was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Commission’s existing transparency rule and provide necessary background for the new label requirement, including whether additional disclosure requirements were necessary.
A second hearing was held April 7, 2022. The second hearing focused directly on consumer testimony and explored in greater detail how information is conveyed and considered by consumers.
A third hearing was held May 25, 2022. The third hearing focused on the experiences of digital navigators working with consumers to select broadband plans, Federal agency representatives discussing lessons learned from existing Federal Government labels, and advocates working to meet the needs of the disability community while exploring how information is conveyed and considered by consumers.
The hearings were streamed free to the public at FCC.gov/live, were recorded and are archived on the FCC’s website.
Comments on Proposal
With the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC sought comment on a number topics, including the following:
- Have broadband service offerings and consumers’ use of broadband services changed sufficiently since the Commission approved labels in 2016 to necessitate modifications to the labels’ content and/or format, or whether there are any other reasons to change the content or format of the labels?
- Where should the labels be displayed to best inform consumers?
- How should the Commission enforce the label requirement and ensure the accuracy of label content?
The FCC also sought comment on implementation issues, including the time by which broadband providers should be required to display the labels.
The comments period closed on March 24, 2022.