Voluntary FCC broadband labels may become less voluntary in the future, as we know. This is because the aforementioned authority has proposed new rules requiring truthful and up-to-date labels to be placed at “points of sale”, which in turn clearly illustrate what customers will receive if they sign a contract with any particular Internet service provider. And in general, as before, such “labels” will include an indication not only of the price and speed of the Internet, but also what restrictions on data transfer exist in a particular tariff package, information about the “network management” policy, such as speed throttling, as well as many other useful details that should make the process of choosing an Internet service provider company more transparent and fair.
What’s more, officials also want to know if using these same labels alone will be enough to help shoppers make better buying decisions. And yes, the panel is also considering new, directly related guidance on exactly where ISPs will display these labels. And this is important, because if they are located in some extremely remote part of the company’s website, where almost no one goes, then this will not make much sense. Overall, this proposal is an obvious response to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which President Joe Biden signed back in November.
The law, if you’re not aware, requires broadband providers to post labels in a “consumer-friendly format,” and the Federal Communications Commission was tasked with developing new rules within a year of the law’s passage. And in theory, if this plan succeeds, these labels will stimulate competition between companies, making it easier for customers to compare Internet services, as well as choosing which one offers the best value for money. But it should also be taken into account that at the same time they can only have a limited application.
Americans quite often get stuck with two broadband companies, and sometimes even “at the mercy” of a monopoly company, unable to switch to another service provider, since terminating the contract is extremely disadvantageous for many. And although the situation is gradually improving, many customers will not have any meaningful choice for a long time even after the introduction of informational labels.