Broadband Pricing to be Clearer, using 'Labels'

John Lister's picture

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has unveiled a standardized way for broadband providers to give details on pricing and other contract terms. The "consumer broadband labels" resemble, and are based on, the nutritional information labels seen on packaged food.

The labels were developed with the input of both broadband providers and consumer groups. Although providers won't legally be required to use the labels, it is very much in their interests to do so.

Companies which do use the labels will, assuming they have been honest and accurate with the information, automatically be considered to have met existing rules that require them to provide clear pricing. (Source:

Monthly & One-Off Costs Listed

The idea of the labels is partly so that customers know what to expect from a particular provider if they sign up to a deal and partly to allow easier and fairer comparison between different providers - at least for those fortunate enough to live in areas which have broadband competition.

The first section of the label covers the monthly cost of service, including any data caps, along with details of what happens if the user exceeds a data cap.

The second section of the label lists any costs from the supplier that apply regardless of the particular plan. This includes two possible monthly fees (administrative and regulatory) and three possible one-off charges, including: activation, deposit and early termination of contract.

Label Details 'Typical' Internet Speeds

The third section of the label covers the "typical" upload and download speeds customer should expect for each plan. The label also details network latency, which implies typical response time to make a remote connection, and packet loss - which is a percentage of data that doesn't get through at all. In both cases, network latency and packet loss are important factors for services such as video calls and online gaming.

There's no guarantee customers will actually get these speeds. However, having these figures on hand may make it easier to complain, ask for a rebate, or request a penalty-free cancellation if the actual performance falls far short of the listed figures.

The final section of the label says whether or not the company carries out two types of "network management" (sometimes called "throttling"), which means slowing down Internet access. The first is "application specific," meaning that a particular type of Internet activity such as using file sharing services, is slowed down. The second is "subscriber triggered" meaning, for example, that the provider slows down a customer's access if they use a large amount of data in a short period. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Is the FCC right to develop and push these labels? Should such standardized labels be mandatory for all providers? Is there any information not on the label that you think should be included?

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mark1guy's picture

I believe the labeling should be mandatory to allow consumers to make side-by-side comparisons to make clear choices. Unfortunately, it sounds as though the labels may not be truthful. Based on the poor end results of other FCC rules (such as television commercials can not be louder than programs) I don't hold high hopes that this labeling system will be accurate or that the FCC will provide the oversight needed to assure accuracy. Similar label requirements should be required of cellular carriers to help consumers sort out the gargon.

ecash's picture

After reading an old article, about a lady thay PAID a monthly fee for a princess phone for 30 years, that SHE was supposed to have BOUGHT and paid for on a Monthly fee charge, ending in the $1000's...for a $150 phone..

Cable corps that charge for BOXES...even $5 per month, would pay off the OVER PRICED boxes in a few years(around $300 each)...MAny corps change the boxes out every 5-10 years for this purpose..

Do I have to mention a Contract with cable corps to Supply ESPN to basic users...ALL OF THEM AND EVERYONE pays for ESPN, when only about 40% of the USA wants/watches ESPN...the other 60% STILL PAY for it..

Love the idea of Satellite.. Other nations, insted of charging for it, SEND up a sat to distribute Broadcast signals, rather then install THOUSANDS of towers and re-broadcasters around the country..Only reason to do it, is so you can charge the re-broadcasters.. It was funny in the beginning of cable, as 90% of those Cable channels, were MOSTLY local broadcasts, around the country...NOW they are national brands that dont SHOW local adverts and sales..

Think I like my LOCAL braodcasts better..they AINt the best, but MANY big cities can get 40+ channels, FREE...and if you REALLY want to, goto the STORE and BUY a movies you WANT to see...NOT the garbage on cable/sat..and pay $50-100 per month...go find RED BOX..its CHEAPER..

I thought LAWS about this were already installed..from the OLD utility days..Even TODAY we have hidden fees and charges...The PHONE company recently Dropped a Tax from 1890's on phones... Teddy did it, to pay for the spanish american war.. 100 years of a $3 tax..can we get it back?? NOPE..

matt_2058's picture

I recently checked with the cable TV provider when I considered leaving Uverse. Price looked good until the additional fees and local 'funds' were added. It went from 10% under Uverse to 25% over for the same speed. I didn't switch.

Something like this is long overdue, but most of that information is available on the flyer mailed to us every stinking week, even from providers that don't service the area.

A format label would be much more beneficial, like the standardized food labels. Or maybe like a automobile MSRP label. Something standardized and easily comparable with ALL costs, charges, fees, special taxes, special funds, etc. itemized.

When it comes to speeds, I think the provider should be required to provide what the customer is paying for. It should meet a standard of within 10% or some other standard decided upon. If they don't provide that speed, then the customer is billed at the next lower tier.

Chief's picture

I was visiting my parents last month (they are in their 80s) and Dad showed me a letter from the cable company telling him they would sent another box out for free which would 'enhance' his internet. So I called them up. They explained if I needed a technician, it would be a $99 charge. "No need", I told them, everything is working fine. "We really need to trade out that box, it may give issues" they said. "Nope" I told them. "I'm not paying for a new box when the old one works just fine." "Well, we have a special, we can do it for $49." "Not interested. We're on a fixed income." "How about 'FREE' and we'll have a tech there at 8a?" "O.K".

I never bothered to tell them I am a tech as I did not know when the box would actually show up (assuming it would be mailed).

Found out from the tech that the boxes were merely obsolete and no longer supported.

What a racket! Charging the customer for switching out your problems!

I'm certain this truth in labeling law was carefully hammered out by the affected companies and will further enhance their bottom lines (not that I blame them, I blame government interference and senseless, endless regulations).

matt_2058's picture

I had something very similar to what Chief described happen to me a few years ago.

I called ATT Uverse to ask if the Motorola NGV510 I had was compatible (it wouldn't connect to ATT). My goal was to up the wireless speed from G to N. They wanted to send a Tech even though I insisted nothing was wrong with my current modem(3801HGV). They said there was an anomaly in line readings they needed to check anyway. Tech showed up and couldn't find any erroneous readings, but said he was going to replace the modem. He was told to confiscate and replace the old ones as they run across them. He said ATT was improving service and the older modems could not offer that to the customer. No big deal...I was getting the N-speed I wanted with the modem/router he was giving me.

Next month, I have a $100 charge for a new modem. I called support and told them to come and get it, I want my old modem back. The rep played dumb and gave me a bunch of BS until I repeated the tech took my modem and left me a different one. I call that an even exchange. I said there were 3 options: return my old modem; they can pay me $100 for it( the price they charged for it and the price to replace it); or cancel the charge. Anything else is theft of the modem I paid for, so I want the name of the tech dispatched to my house for a police report.

The charge was cancelled.

BTW, this is heavily edited. I was on the phone for an hour or so between the two calls.