Your internet provider can’t hide fees anymore — FCC forces broadband companies to show ‘nutrition labels’

FCC internet nutrition label
(Image credit: Ledgeview Partners / FCC)

We’ve all become used to seeing nutrition labels on food products — many of which make me recoil in horror and walk out of my local supermarket in stunned sadness (looking at you, Snyder’s Pretzel Dips). But now, this level of mandated transparency is coming to the broadband industry, and I could not be happier.

After almost a decade of legal battles, the FCC is now requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to display costs, fees and speeds in a way that is very reminiscent of a nutrition label — giving consumers a lot more transparency to comparison shop with a lot more ease.

What will you see on these labels?

As I mentioned above, there’s been a long drawn out legal fight over this, as ISPs have done everything in their power to block this FCC requirement. But there’s no hiding those sneaky fees anymore.

On each label, you’re going to find the following:

FCC Broadband Label

(Image credit: FCC)
  • Monthly Price: what you’re going to pay, whether it’s just an introductory rate, and if you need to sign a contract to get it.
  • Additional Charges & Terms: Any hidden fees that the ISP may be planning to spring on you for equipment rental, installation or early termination of the broadband plan.
  • Discounts & Bundle: Whether this price comes as part of a wider bundle you have to agree too.
  • Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP): Whether the ISP you’re signing up with takes part in this government program to lower the monthly cost of internet.
  • Speeds Provided with Plan: How fast the typical speeds will be, and how low the latency is probably going to be.
  • Data included: If there is a limit to the amount of data you get in your mobile internet plan, you’ll see it here alongside how much additional data will cost.
  • Customer Support: Does what it says on the tin, really. If you need to get in touch with the ISP, all the details are here.

When will you see these labels?

For big ISPs, the deadline has passed. We’re seeing the likes of T-Mobile, Google Fiber, Comcast and Verizon implement these. As for smaller regional ISPs (those with less than 100,000 lines), they have until October 10th to get these labels set up. 

Outside of the additional clarity granted by these labels to begin with, one thing is crystal clear — ISPs have nowhere to hide their fees anymore. I would love to see the next step being something similar to the mandated automatic compensation scheme you see in the U.K. for when the internet goes down.

But for an industry that has prided itself on keeping details vague, including misrepresenting the actual speed you’ll get, this is a damn good place to start.

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Jason England
Managing Editor — Computing

Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a Managing Editor of Computing at Tom's Guide. He has previously written for Laptop Mag, Tom's Hardware, Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.