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New broadband labeling system adopted by feds to protect consumers

New rules will require US telecommunication companies that sell broadband internet services to consumers to use a new labeling system designed to protect consumers from deceptive advertising.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said the new easy-to-read labels will “provide clear, easy-to-understand, and accurate information about the cost and performance of high-speed internet services."

The industry-wide standardized labels will also help consumers easily compare plans between companies who sell internet plans and packages.

The transparent tags are expected to help shoppers pick a plan without having to sift through promotional offers that often deceive the consumer with hidden costs or fees added to the bill after a set introductory period.

The labels – which were designed to resemble food nutrition labels – will accompany internet product advertisements both in stores and online starting April 10th. The FCC adopted the rule in November 2022 but is only implementing it now.

Instead of serving size and calories, the labels detailed information about the product offered in a clear and concise format, so the consumer understands exactly what they are purchasing.

FCC broadband label system
FCC sample of new Broadband Consumer Label, which will be required by US providers starting on April 10th, 2024.

Parameters include internet speed tier, data allowances, download and upload speeds, length of contract, and monthly cost. The label will also let consumers know about introductory rate, termination fees, network management practices, privacy policies, and any other monthly charges to watch out for.

Internet service providers that offer home, or fixed, internet services, or mobile broadband plans are required to have a label for each service plan they offer, the rule dictates.

"Consumers will finally get information they can use to comparison shop, avoid junk fees, and make informed choices about which high-speed internet service is the best fit for their needs and budget," FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said.

Additionally, the "consumer broadband labels" must be fully displayed in stores and online purchasing pages and "cannot be buried in multiple clicks or reduced to a link or icon that a consumer might miss," Rosenworcel said.

Under the new transparency label rule the providers must also make the labels bar code or QR code compatible.

Providers with less than 100,000 subscribers have until October 10th to integrate the labels into their point-of-sale locations.

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