Shopping around for a good broadband company or mobile carrier may soon be as easy as shopping for cereal, thanks to the introduction of broadband consumer labels by the FCC for both fixed and mobile broadband.
When shopping for an internet or cellular provider, we often default to word-of-mouth. Does AT&T suck? Is Verizon sketchy with its fees? Does Time Warner throttle data? We ask our friends because there's a distrust of cable companies and mobile providers. The FCC noticed from the thousands of complaints it gets each year from consumers about hidden fees, so they stepped up and made nutrition labels for internet companies and mobile carriers—and yes, they look just like food labels.
Both the industry and public interest groups contributed to the FCC's design of the "Broadband Facts" label. The design is a little dense, which is a good thing in the end, since it likely means that all relevant information is present. "It is very straightforward. It's very clear-cut," FCC chairman Tom Wheeler told the Los Angeles Times.
Are the broadband companies cool with this? The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (which includes Time Warner, Viacom, and Comcast) say yes. "In today's competitive marketplace, cable Internet providers are committed to providing consumers with accessible and relevant information about broadband services," the NCTA said.
Which is interesting, since the NCTA opposes net neutrality. Additionally, they may not care about the labels, since consumers often have only one choice of ISP for their area. The labeling is voluntary so service providers aren't required to use it, but the NCTA's attitude suggests they'll adopt these measures.
The labels have no set date of implementation, but they are released for use now. It's up to good ol' trustworthy AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, et al. to swiftly put them on their products.