Diana Eisner

Comparison Shopping: Getting Broadband Nutrition Labels Right for Consumers

You’ve likely heard the term “broadband nutrition label” used in the past few months. Well, this is one thing in broadband land that actually is what it sounds like—a tool for shoppers to compare broadband plans using simple, easy to understand information. Instead of calories, fat and protein, it’s price, speed, and data capacity.

The broadband market is more competitive than ever—that’s why prices are dropping counter to inflation. USTelecom analyzed the data and found that broadband prices – at all speed tiers – declined in recent years, at a time when the cost of most goods and services has gone up. When inflation is considered, the real price of the most popular tier of broadband service has dropped by 28.1 percent since 2015; and the real price of the highest speed broadband service has dropped by 43.9 percent. A recent study by BroadbandNow found that prices for ultra-high-speed plans have decreased by almost $60 per month. That is remarkable and a testament to the investment America’s broadband providers are making to close the digital divide.

When the Infrastructure Law was enacted in November, it required the FCC to implement the broadband nutrition labels. While ISPs currently provide customers with significant information on pricing, terms, conditions, network management practices and the like, we understand the desire that specific, easy-to-read information be at consumers’ fingertips as they’re choosing among plans and providers.

For the labels to fulfill their purpose of aiding comparison shopping (ensuring a true Cinnamon Toast Crunch to Frosted Flakes comparison), it’s critical that they are simple to read and not chock full of highly technical information that will only confuse consumers. Beyond ease of understanding, ease of access is key. Allowing ISPs to provide a central site with labels for all of their current offerings will help ensure consumers aren’t lost down a rabbit hole trying to locate the information. At the same time, the FCC should be very targeted in how the labels are implemented—they are intended to be a comparison-shopping tool, not something that is constantly sent to the consumer and becomes white noise.

We stand ready to work with the FCC to ensure that the broadband nutrition labels are efficiently and effectively implemented in a way that achieves the Commission’s important goal to help consumers navigate and understand all of the choices they have for broadband.

Diana Eisner is Vice President, Policy & Advocacy of USTelecom – The Broadband Association