FCC Adopts Rules Requiring Broadband Providers to Display Point-of-Sale Labels and Proposes New Rules Promoting Equal Access to Broadband Services
Broadband Providers Required to Display Point of Sale Labels
On November 17, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Report and Order (Order) adopting rules requiring broadband internet service providers (ISPs or providers) to prominently display labels disclosing information about broadband prices, rates, data allowances and broadband speeds. The FCC has not yet announced the effective date for ISPs to comply. The Order also includes a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) in which the FCC seeks comment on the format and content of the label, as well as potential future changes. The comment deadline has been extended to February 16, 2023; reply comments are due by March 16, 2023.
In November 2021, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Infrastructure Act) into law. Among other things, the Infrastructure Act directed the FCC to create regulations requiring the display of broadband consumer labels that disclose information regarding broadband internet service plans. The label must also “include information regarding whether the offered price is an introductory rate and, if so, the price the consumer will be required to pay following the introductory period.” The FCC was also required to hold public hearings to evaluate (1) how consumers evaluate broadband internet access service plans; and (2) whether disclosures regarding broadband service plans are available and effective.
In response, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in January 2022 in which it proposed requiring ISPs to disclose information to consumers by displaying labels at the point of sale. The FCC recommended basing the labels on the voluntary labels it previously approved in 2016. In the NPRM, the FCC asked whether broadband services, and consumers’ use of such services, have changed enough to require modifications to the labels.
Consistent with the Infrastructure Act’s mandate, the FCC held public hearings to gather feedback on the content, format and location of the labels. The FCC asked whether the label should vary depending on the consumer’s interaction with the provider, e.g., in person at a store, on the phone or online. Feedback from dozens of comments showed that consumers can be confused by the pricing, terminology and complexity of internet service plans, and most commenters asked the FCC to update the 2016 labels to better help consumers comparison shop for broadband services.
The FCC’s Order adopted a new, single version of the label (for both fixed and mobile broadband service offerings) and requires providers to display, at the point of sale, a label containing information regarding the provider’s service offerings, prices, introductory rates, data allowances, broadband speeds and whether the provider participates in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The Order defines the format in which the label must appear and the display location. It must also be accessible for people with disabilities and should appear in machine-readable format.
Below is an image of the label template from the FCC’s Order and details outlining the content, formatting and display location requirements: