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The Rise, Fall, & Return of the Consumer Broadband Label

Imagine you’re shopping for a new automobile, but as you go from car to car and dealership to dealership, the window stickers each look completely different. Some include a breakdown of the component charges and taxes, while others reveal just the bottom line. Some list the expected gas mileage, while others do not. And some don’t show the price of the car at all—just the total cost if you buy the vehicle as part of a bundle that also includes, say, a motorcycle and a boat.

Or what if the next time you went into a grocery store, none of the food had the familiar nutrition facts grid on the label? Instead, some manufacturers might choose to list a few things like the calorie count or protein content, but leave others off, like the fat content, or a complete list of ingredients.

In reality, of course, all new cars and trucks, regardless of make or model, have had standardized window stickers since 1959; and most of the foods at the supermarket have standardized Nutrition Facts labels, which have been required since 1994. Both represent common-sense transparency and enable consumers to compare competing products and make thoughtful, informed purchasing decisions.

Unfortunately, consumers lack such basic tools when shopping for broadband internet service, which has become essential to daily life—a reality that the COVID-19 pandemic made even more clear as work, education, and even healthcare increasingly moved online. Instead, broadband consumers often get unreliable or slow internet service, data caps, quietly expiring promotional rates, and confusing bills filled with a laundry list of mysterious fees, which make it hard for consumers to budget and virtually impossible for them to comparison shop. Unbelievably, some bills for bundled service packages do not even list a separate line item for the cost of internet service!

To read the full post visit the Digital Lab blog here: https://digital-lab.consumerreports.org/2021/07/26/the-rise-fall-return-of-the-consumer-broadband-label/