If you're the kind of consumer who checks nutrition labels and window stickers before you buy a can of soup or your next set of wheels, the FCC recognizes your decision-making prowess and has designed new "broadband labels" that will help you shop for better home Internet service.
Announced today, the labels aim to clarify how reliable a given ISP's service is and its true monthly cost after fees and other add-on charges are included. ISPs that choose to follow the FCC's new format will have to clearly list the following:
Price: This includes confusing charges like overage, equipment, early termination, and administrative fees.
Data Allowances: The carrier-defined plan limit after which subscribers will face additional charges or slowed data speeds.
Performance: Broadband speed and other performance metrics.
"These labels provide consumers clarity about the broadband service they are purchasing, not only helping them to make more informed choices but also preventing surprises when the first bill arrives," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. "Customers deserve to know the price they will actually pay for a service and to be fully aware of other components such as data limits and performance factors before they sign up for service."Unlike nutrition facts or car window stickers, the new label format is optional. The FCC says it is designed as a guideline to help ISPs meet its new Open Internet transparency rules.
The FCC says it receives more than 2,000 complaints every year about suprised fees on consumers' Internet service bills. Actual prices for broadband service can be 40 percent higher than what is advertised, according to advocacy groups who supported the new labels.