Cable, Telecom Companies Push For Change to FCC’s Broadband Pricing Labels





A Federal Communications Commission order for cable and telecom internet service providers to show “nutrition label”-style disclosures on broadband pricing are too onerous and may actually confuse consumers, according to the NCTA – The Internet & Television Association.

The NCTA, which represents the cable players, were joined by fellow cable group the ACA Connects and wireless trade group CTIA, are pushing back against the FCC order, which is supposed to offer consumers an easily viewable look at their expected all-in pricing for internet. The NCTA itself sent a letter to the FCC on Friday calling for the agency to ease off on some of the restrictions. This followed a similar letter sent by the ACA last month.

The pushback underscores the contentious nature of these nutrition labels. The labels were mandated by Congress, but the FCC created the rules and approved the order late last year. The internet service providers have argued that they represent an onerous burden on their business. The rule was supposed to have already gone into effect.

“While we are reviewing the petitions as required by law, we are strongly committed to ensuring these labels become a reality soon to improve transparency and competition  for consumers,” said a spokesman for the FCC.

The labels were designed to give consumers a clearer sense of what they would pay for internet service. What you pay for internet has long been a murky question given the different types of promotions available (some based on your credit score) and the different local and federal fees charged. It was also supposed to expose fine print items like data caps, speed and other hidden charges.

Broadband providers are supposed to prominently display the labels online, and allow third-party sites to easily compile the info.

But the ISP industry has raised issues with the requirement to list out every single federal, state and local government fee, arguing that this would require the creation of multiple labels.

“This new requirement would add unnecessary complexity and burdens to the label for consumers and providers and could result in some providers having to create many labels for any given plan,” the NCTA said in its letter. “These unnecessary burdens would be felt by both small and large

A second part of the order requires the broadband provider to document when a customer is directed to a label when they work with an alternative channels, such as in a store or over the phone. Again, the NCTA said such documentation would be a burden on the companies.

The trade groups suggested that the FCC instead allows providers to “develop appropriate business practices to promote distribution of the label through alternative sales channels and retaining documentation of these practices for two years.”

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