What should a broadband consumer-friendly label look like?

As far back as the 2010 National Broadband Plan, there have been recommendations for a broadband label for consumers much like nutrition labels we see at the grocery stores. In January, the FCC asked for comments on broadband labels; Carnegie Mellon University came up with that and more. They have a report that looks into labels in depth starting with surveys and recommendations from 2016 and updated recommendations and a draft label based on recent responses to the 2016 model.

Here are their recommendations…

  • Broadband labels should include a range of information valued by consumers but should highlight the information they value most, including information on cost, speed, and reliability.
  • Broadband labels should balance the needs of consumers who value simplicity and conciseness with those who value detailed information. This can be achieved with a standardized label design with links to definitions of terms maintained by the FCC in a format conducive to comparing multiple plans. A layered label design with a summary and full version may help address the needs of a wider range of consumers.
  • Broadband service providers should be required to deposit detailed plan information in a standardized computer-readable form in a publicly accessible database to enable third-parties to generate customized labels for consumers and offer comparison shopping tools, quality of experience or suitability ratings, and other value-added services.
  • Non-optional costs should be bundled into a total cost where possible, including taxes, to make it easy for consumers to determine how much they will need to pay.
  • Performance metrics should be included for downstream speed, upstream speed, latency, and packet loss in both normal and poor performance times.
  • Broadband labels should include some measure of reliability, addressing consumer interest in information about outages and downtime.
  • All data rate units be kept consistent (e.g. all broadband providers would express throughputs in Mbps and latencies in ms).
  • Network management practices should be enumerated on the label in standard groups and accompanied by a standardized glossary with definitions and examples that explain these terms for consumers.
  • Labels and accompanying data should be localized so that consumers can readily compare plan details–including total costs, performance at both normal and busy times, reliability, and network management practices– for a particular geographic location.

And model labels…

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, FCC, Policy, Research by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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