CR and Next Century Cities submit comments to FCC on the benefits of the label and ways to improve it for consumers
Consumer Reports submitted comments in response to the Federal Communication Commission’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) on the broadband consumer label. While CR applauds the efforts of the Commission to move forward with the label, there remains opportunities to make it more transparent and beneficial for consumers.
CR believes that while the label is a critical step forward in providing consumers with a greater understanding on the true cost they pay for broadband services, the FCC could further improve the label by requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to list applicable discounts on the label, and make it crystal clear if and when promotional discounts (e.g., introductory rates) expire. CR also urges the Commission to require the broadband label to appear on a consumer’s monthly bill and translated in additional languages other than English and Spanish such as Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Arabic (the next five most spoken languages in America) expands accessibility to populations who speak the next five most spoken languages in the United States.
“The rollout of the broadband label will simplify broadband bills for Americans and make it more difficult for ISPs to insert a laundry list of mysterious fees that serve to increase the price beyond the advertised teaser rate. This label is a major win for consumers and will help people better understand how much they are paying for this essential service,” said Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel at CR. “We look forward to working with the FCC to make the broadband label more transparent and workable for all consumers.”
CR has been a strong advocate for requiring internet service providers (ISP) to include a broadband label that would clearly present pricing information, any additional fees (e.g. device rental fees), promotional discounts and length, and performance information (i.e., expected download and upload speeds). Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel at CR, said, “A broadband label is a great tool to increase transparency and help consumers better understand what they are paying for with their internet plan. And for those lucky consumers who enjoy a choice of ISPs, a clear, uniform label will allow those consumers to comparison shop.”
CR championed the broadband label to be included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law approved by Congress and the President in 2021.
CR also recently concluded an investigation into broadband which found that consumers find their broadband bills confusing and far too often have Many of the bills collected included add-on fees for extra services, such as “unlimited data allowances” or data overage fees with plans that have data caps. There can also be extra charges for equipment (router or modem rental fees). More than a dozen ISPs were found to charge company-imposed fees—also known as junk fees—under names such as “network enhancement fee,” “internet infrastructure fee”. A broadband label will help address these fees by clearly presenting pricing information, any additional fees (e.g. device rental fees), promotional discounts and length, and performance information (i.e., expected download and upload speeds).
CR also contacted its membership and asked them to sign a petition urging the FCC to require the broadband label to appear on the monthly ISP bills. More than 30,000 signed the online petition.
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