Now There’s A “Nutrition Label” For Your Internet Service

Finally, broadband customers will have a sense of what they're signing up for

(Photo Illustration: Vocativ)
Apr 04, 2016 at 4:08 PM ET

Endlessly confused by different internet providers’ competing, complex plans? The government is about to step in—with “nutrition labels” to break them down.

That’s only barely a euphemism. The new labels, unveiled Monday by the Federal Communication Commission, will literally follow the format of the Food and Drug Administration’s nutrition facts label, and will be visible as customers go to pay for a new plan. Instead of how many grams of fat or calories a snack has, the FCC’s label will tell customers how much Verizon is charging a month for a certain speed with a two-year contract.

“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 in a statement.

The nutrition label won’t exactly be legally required from each provider, but the FCC expects most of them to adopt them in the near future anyway. The FCC recently implemented stricter transparency rules for the industry, and offers the labels as a means of safe harbor—companies that use them cover their hides, legally.

American broadband customers are constantly dissatisfied with their service plans. Internet providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable are routinely listed among Americans’ most dissatisfying consumer experiences, and the FCC receives thousands of complaints each year about hidden fees on internet and cable bills.