So you’ve signed up for a new Internet service and it seems like it’s a great deal… but that’s before you consider things like data caps and sneaky fees. The Federal Communications Commission knows that paying for Internet services can be a frustrating experience for many consumers, which is why it’s come out with new “nutrition labels” for consumer broadband services that offer details about ISPs’ prices, their policies on data caps, their assorted fees and more.
“Like the ‘nutrition labels’ on food, the new Consumer Broadband Labels establish a consistent format for disclosing what consumers are buying from Internet service providers,” the FCC explains. “The Commission receives thousands of consumer complaints annually about surprising fees on broadband bills. Up-front clarity will help consumers make better choices. This is a look at the FCC’s new Consumer Broadband Labels for fixed broadband service.”
Here is a sample label that shows what we can expect to see going forward:
The idea here is to help consumers make more informed choices so they hopefully don’t get whacked with higher-than-expected broadband bills every month.
Will ISPs actually agree to use these labels on their services? That could be an issue, as Ars Technica writes that they won’t be required to use them.
“The FCC recommends that ISPs use these labels to comply with the disclosure rules and says use of the labels will act as a ‘safe harbor’ for demonstrating compliance,” Ars notes. “However, ISPs can come up with their own format if they still make all the required disclosures in ‘an accurate, understandable, and easy-to-find manner,’ the FCC said today.”
All the same, I really like the idea of making ISPs’ policies more transparent and easier to understand because there’s nothing worse than having to fork over even more money to Comcast every month than you thought you owed. Time will tell if this effort produces tangible improvements.