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Labels Meant to Give Broadband Providers a Net Neutrality Safe Harbor

Randy Sukow / Apr 4, 2016

Consumer Broadband Label SampleThe courts could still rule against the FCC’s Open Internet Order setting net neutrality rules for broadband providers. If they don’t, however, ISPs could use a new set of standard labels the Commission introduced today to protect themselves if consumer net neutrality complaints start rolling.

The Open Internet order says that ISPs must display “clear and easy-to-read” information about their broadband services. The new labels “will officially operate as a safe harbor after the Office of Management and Budget gives final approval of the enhancements to the transparency rule adopted in the 2015 Open Internet Order—though providers may choose to use the labels for disclosure to consumers at any time,” the Commission said in a press release.

The labels resemble the familiar nutritional tables on food packaging at the supermarket. However, rather than listing the protein, fat and carb levels, the labels display an ISP’s broadband speeds and compare them the national averages.

There are two labels. The fixed broadband label (pictured, click to expand) includes the subscription, installation and other fees; the monthly data limit, and the conditions that could lead to network management (aka, speed throttling) activity. A second label for mobile broadband service includes similar information as well as definitions of “typical” performance for 3G (1.5 Mbps downstream/600-900 kbps upstream) and 4G (6-12 Mbps downstream/3-6 Mbps upstream) services.

“Customers deserve to know the price they will actually pay for a service and to be fully aware of other components such as data limits and performance factors before they sign up for service,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said.

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