Your Internet Provider Must Now Show A ‘Nutrition Label’

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Key Takeaways

  • ISPs in the US must now show a broadband 'nutrition label.'
  • The labels show the true prices and speeds for service.
  • The info theoretically prevents providers from hiding unpleasant details.

Internet service providers (ISPs) in the US are now required to show broadband ‘nutrition labels’ that clearly identify what customers get with their plans.

Modelled after food labels, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated “consumer broadband labels” show the true pricing of internet access as well as the typical speeds, latency, and data caps. Customers can see potential overage costs as well as links to contract terms, support, and policies for both network management as well as privacy.

All major ISPs in the country must not only display the labels, but put them in prominent locations both on the internet and in retail stores. They will often be available in both English and Spanish.

The aim, as outlined in the past, is to prevent ISPs from misleading customers about the costs and features of their plans. They can’t hide fees or realistic data speeds. This theoretically makes providers compete more on quality and price, as would- be subscribers can clearly see which companies offer the best plans.

The FCC has been developing the broadband nutrition label since 2016, but only began the implementation process in 2021 as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The Commission formally introduced the rules in late 2022, and they took effect six months after a final sign-off for the requirements.

Whether or not the broadband nutrition labels are effective isn’t yet clear. Many US cities have few choices in ISPs, making it unrealistic to switch services. The FCC also noted in a recent report that 7% of Americans don’t have access to high-speed internet under current definitions, and that 28% of rural residents go without. The information won’t help these users.

Regulators are keeping a close watch on telecoms to ensure compliance, however. The FCC can investigate and fine telecoms that misrepresent themselves. Even if customers have few options, they’ll at least know what to expect.