FCC unveils nutrition-like labels for Internet service

FCC unveils nutrition-like labels for Internet service
© Twitter/FCC

Regulators are encouraging companies that sell monthly Internet service to start using nutritional fact-styled labels to inform customers about price and performance of service. 

The Federal Communications Commission designed the “broadband facts” labels so that companies can use them to comply with the transparency portion of the agency’s net neutrality rules. 

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“We have all experienced the kind of confusion that can result when you look at this eye chart and try to compare it with that eye chart. And you kind of get lost,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. 

The design strongly resembles the Food and Drug Administration’s nutritional labels. It is meant to be easy to read to allow customers to comparison shop. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau helped design the labels. 

While companies will not be forced to use the exact design, those that do will receive assurance that they are complying with the Internet rules passed last year. 

Featured most prominently on the labels is the price and data allowance of monthly Internet service, and any other fees. Advertised Internet speeds are also displayed. Links to privacy and network management practices would also be required. 

Many Internet service providers already provide most the information on their websites in one form or another.  

The transparency requirements are one of the least controversial aspects of the FCC’s net neutrality rules. Last year, the agency reclassified Internet service as common carrier so it could have more authority to ensure Internet service providers treat all traffic equally and don’t prioritize certain traffic over others. 

An FCC working group, made of consumer advocates and industry, came up with recommendations for the transparency labels last year and asked that the FCC get a designer to help with the layout.