FCC Issues Broadband Label ‘Safe Harbor’ for Net Neutrality Transparency Reporting

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The Federal Communications Commission has unveiled new broadband service labels as part of its efforts to help educate consumers about what exactly they purchase and pay for in their Internet bills.  

The labels bear a striking resemblance to food nutrition labels, a format drawn in no small part through the agency’s collaboration with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its experience in helping educate the public on their purchases.

The labels are intended to serve as “safe harbors” for Internet service providers to meet service transparency reporting requirements under the agency’s Open Internet rules. They were released in conjunction with a public notice formally adopting the safe harbor.

“What we are unveiling today is a simplified approach to the presentation of the core information that consumers need to make an informed purchase decision,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. The labels are intended to be used at a point of sale and online, and include metrics on service speed, data allowances, price, and any associated fees.

“The FCC receives more than 2,000 complaints annually about surprise fees associated with consumers’ Internet service bills,” the agency said in a news release.

“The actual prices paid for broadband-related services can be as much as 40 percent greater than what is advertised after taxes and fees are added to a bill, according to consumer complaints to the commission.  With the average monthly cost of broadband service ranging between $60 and $70, consumers deserve to know what they are going to get for their money,” the FCC said.

The safe harbor won’t become formal until the transparency rules are approved by the Office of Management and Budget—a process that could take several months, an FCC spokesman told Bloomberg BNA. However, nothing prevents ISPs from adopting them now, he added.

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