US mandates new comparison internet service labels

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US mandates new comparison internet service labels

US broadband providers must display information similar to nutrition labels on food products to help consumers shop for broadband internet services, according to new rules finalised by the US Federal Communications Commission.

The rules require broadband providers to display, at the point of sale, labels that show prices, speeds, fees and data allowances.

The labels were first unveiled as a voluntary program in 2016. Congress ordered the FAA to mandate them under the 2021 infrastructure law.

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“The black and white nutrition labels that have been on food products for decades are simple to read and easy to understand,” FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said. “We are borrowing the model from food products because we want to make basic information about internet service easy to understand.”

Labels must be fully displayed on the main purchasing pages that providers have online and “cannot be buried in multiple clicks or reduced to a link or icon that a consumer might miss,” Rosenworcel added.

The $1 trillion 2021 infrastructure bill includes $65 billion to boost internet access. There is a separate $10 billion Covid-19 aid program administered by the US Treasury that also aims to boost broadband internet access in underserved communities.

It also includes $42.45 billion in grants for states and territories for broadband infrastructure.

Authors of the infrastructure law said last year 19 million Americans lack access to high-speed internet. The law includes $14.2 billion for FCC vouchers for low-income families to use toward internet service plans. More than 14 million households are taking part.

The FCC also said it will begin a new proceeding that asks “how to incorporate more pricing and discount data on the label itself, how to measure service reliability, and how to make broadband nutrition labels even more accessible.”

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