On January 27, 2021, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ NPRM”), which was adopted at the January Open Meeting, seeking comment on regulations requiring broadband internet access service providers (“ISP”) to display, at the point of sale, labels to disclose to consumers information regarding prices, introductory rates, data allowances, broadband speeds, and management practices, among other things, as required by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“Infrastructure Act”). Specifically, the NPRM proposes requiring ISPs to display the 2016 labels the FCC previously permitted ISPs to use as a safe harbor to comply with broadband transparency requirements. The 2016 label standards required fixed broadband providers to display the following content: 1) pricing; 2) monthly data allowance; 3) overage charges; 4) equipment fees; 5) other monthly fees; 6) one-time fees; 7) early termination fees; 8) information on performance (speed, latency, and packet loss); and 9) network management practices. The 2016 label standards required mobile broadband service providers to display the following content: 1) pricing; 2) when you exceed data allowance; 3) other included services/features; 4) other monthly fees; 5) one-time fees; 6) service contract terms; 7) early termination fees; 8) “bring your own device” information; 9) information on performance (speed, latency, and other services on the network); and 10) network management practices. Each label would be required to be displayed in the format of the 2016 labels, which resembled the nutrition labels the FDA prescribed for food products, at the point of sale and on the ISPs website, and must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
The NPRM seeks comment on this proposal and also seeks comment on the following:
- Whether the 2016 labels sufficiently address the Infrastructure Act’s requirement that the label state whether the offered price is an introductory rate, and if so, what price the consumer will be required to pay following the introductory period.
- Whether flexibility is required in both, content and format, to ensure that consumers are not overwhelmed with information, particularly when there are different service offerings based upon bundles, features, add-ons, locations, etc.
- Whether there is additional content that should be included.
- How to ensure that any flexibility that is permitted does not undermine the consumers’ ability to comparison shop.
- How the Commission should collect the label information for price comparison reporting as required by the Infrastructure Act.
- How these labels should be provided on ISPs websites.
- Whether a hard copy of the label must be in retail locations or if they can merely provide a link to the label on the website.
- The relationship between the proposed labels and the FCC’s existing transparency rule.
- Enforcement issues related to the labels.
- The best way to implement the proposed labels and how long it will take providers to implement them.
Comments will be due 30 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register; reply comments will be due 45 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.
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