New FCC Broadband 'Nutrition Label' Will More Clearly Inform You You're Being Ripped Off

from the transparently-terrible dept

For years we’ve noted how broadband providers impose all manner of bullshit fees on your bill to drive up the cost of service post sale. They’ve also historically had a hard time being transparent about what kind of broadband connection you’re buying. As was evident back when Comcast thought it would be a good idea to throttle all upstream BitTorrent traffic (without telling anybody), or AT&T decided to cap and throttle the usage of its “unlimited” wireless users (without telling anybody), or Verizon decided to modify user packets to track its customers around the internet (without telling anybody).

Maybe you see where I’m going with this.

Back in 2016 the FCC eyed the voluntary requirement that broadband providers be required to provide a sort of “nutrition label” for broadband. The idea was that this label would clearly disclose speeds, throttling, limitation, sneaky fees, and all the stuff big predatory ISPs like to bury in their fine print (if they disclose it at all). This was the example image the FCC circulated at the time:

While the idea was scuttled by the Trump administration, Congress demanded the FCC revisit it as part of the recent infrastructure bill. So the Rosenworcel FCC last week, as instructed by Congress, voted 4-0 to begin exploring new rules:

A final vote on approved rules will come after the Biden FCC finally has a voting majority, likely this summer. And unlike the first effort, this time the requirements will be mandatory, so ISPs will have to comply.

This is all well intentioned, and to be clear it’s a good thing Comcast and AT&T will now need to be more transparent in the ways they’re ripping you off. In fact, when AT&T recently announced it would be providing faster 2 and 5 Gbps fiber to some users, it stated it would be getting rid of hidden fees and caps entirely on those tiers. AT&T announced this as if they’d come up with the idea, when in reality they were just getting out ahead of the requirement they knew was looming anyway. So stuff like this does matter.

The problem of course is that forcing ISPs to be transparent about how they’re ripping you off doesn’t stop them from ripping you off. Big broadband providers are able to nickel-and-dime the hell out of users thanks to two things: regional monopolization causing limited competition, and the state and federal corruption that protects it. U.S. policymakers and lawmakers can’t (and often won’t) tackle that real problem, so instead we get these layers of band aids that only treat the symptom of a broken U.S. telecom market, not the underlying disease.

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Comments on “New FCC Broadband 'Nutrition Label' Will More Clearly Inform You You're Being Ripped Off”

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Koby (profile) says:

Magnifying Glass

The problem of course is that forcing ISPs to be transparent about how they’re ripping you off doesn’t stop them from ripping you off.

If a provider attempts to compete on anything besides the headline price, customers will probably never realize it. The terms and fine print of service contracts are too obscure. The hope is that now providers can begin to compete on these service details. Of course, nothing will change in monopoly markets, but in duopoly markets they might.

TFG says:

Re: Magnifying Glass

One can hope. But a duopoly is barely better than a monopoly, and all ISPs have to do is not really try that hard to offer better service than the one other guy.

What this might do (and it’s a big might) is generate enough anger at all the publicly visible bullshit fees to get things moving in the right direction on Telecom regulatory capture and overall corruption, assuming that the country doesn’t implode before that happens.

That One Guy (profile) says:

A fresh coat of paint on the Titanic

While requiring ISP’s to provide specifics(and I look forward to finding out which of them lies on the label first) as the article rightly points out that only gets you so far.

Knowing that your ISP option is crap doesn’t do you much good if it’s your only option, so a real fix is going to require that enough politicians and government agencies admit that the market is broken(by design) and maybe continuing to give major ISP’s free reign and unchecked ability to stifle competition might not be the best way to resolve that issue.

While that’s certainly a tall order due to how many politicians are so owned by the various ISPs that they might as well preface all their press releases with ‘This statement brought to you by Comcast/AT&T/Verizon…’ it is not an insurmountable task, as the various community broadband efforts that have the major ISPs in a tizzy have shown, just a difficult and time-consuming one.

Anonymous Coward says:

this surely can only be a good thing, to clearly expose the main industry players for what they are, thieving, lying companies with no importance to anything/anyone, customers in particular, than making as much profit as can be made (for the hierachy only, of course) and ripping tax payers money from the country’s coffers, with the best wishes of certain members of Congress, to top up still further those CEO etc bonuses and pensions!

Joel Coehoorn says:

Don't normalize caps

One thing that worries me are the "Data included with monthly charge" and "Charges for additional data usage" lines. I don’t want to normalize this! I’ve lived in three states and used five different services over the last 15 years, and NONE of them had caps. Maybe I’ve just been fortunate, but I don’t want to start giving more consumers the idea this is normal.

One possible option here is letting the ISP leave this section off of the label if and only if the service is unlimited (including no throttling).

Jamie says:

So we all already know our ISPs are mostly terrible and we are still stuck with them since we have no choice.
I’m all for transparency, but given that there is already no willingness/ability to enforce any kind of consequences for not providing the service that is sold, how is making the advertised service easier to read going to be any better? We need more competition and some enforcement with teeth. Getting to a more cometitive market is not going to be a fast or easy process, but making the companies actually feel consequences for not delivering what they promissed or sold should be an easy fix that would go a long way towards making everything better.

TimothyPonia says:

The Proven To Rock Music

Making Music In Hindi Films – Then All This

They call the author Lien. One of her favorite hobbies is acting but she has been taking on new things lately. After being out of his job for years he became an administrative aide. My wife plus i live in Missouri although i will need to move each year or couple of.
There are times hybrid cars land a fine catch inside of a particular placement. If none of those work, reinstall the sound card truckers. If the comforter fixes the flutter, great!

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