What just happened? In an effort to end broadband bill shock for customers, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is introducing new rules that would require internet service providers (ISPs) to include details about the actual price of their service and information about data caps and performance. However, in a filing with the FCC earlier this month, Comcast expressed its reservations about the new rules, and argued that implementing the proposed labels will impose "significant administrative burdens" on the company and add "unnecessary complexity" to its operations.
The letter complains that itemizing the additional charges and government taxes would require separate labels and force the company to create 251 such labels to comply with the new rules. Comcast also claimed that it would have to generate a number of new notices periodically due to changes in state and local fees every year, but the exact number was redacted from the public posting.
The letter, signed by Comcast's VP of regulatory affairs, Jordan Goldstein, also noted that Comcast wasn't the only internet service provider complaining about the changes. As noted by the company, five major cable and telecom industry trade groups also petitioned the agency to cancel its new labeling policy before it goes into effect. To further its argument against the proposed changes, Comcast also claimed that the existing rules actually benefit consumers by helping ISPs streamline the labeling process.
As reported by Ars Technica, the new broadband labels were passed by the U.S. Congress in 2021 before the FCC approved them in November 2022. They will, however, only go into effect after a federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review due to requirements in the US Paperwork Reduction Act. Once they are approved by the OMB, medium and large ISPs will be required to comply with the new rules within six months, while smaller providers with 100,000 or fewer subscribers will get a full year to get in line.
The new pricing information requirements are similar to what the FCC had introduced in 2016 before they were nixed by former FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai. If the new rules come into effect, home broadband providers will have to clearly mention a number of details upfront, including the base pricing, monthly data allowance, overage charges (if any), equipment fees, other monthly fees (if any), one-time fees, and early termination fees for those on contract. The labels should also include information on speed, latency, packet loss, and network management practices.