Comparing prices, performance and network practices of broadband service providers can be challenging, even for savvy consumers. With this in mind, the FCC created Open Internet transparency rules requiring providers to convey sufficient information for consumers to make informed choices about available broadband services. Based on recommendations from its Consumer Advisory Committee, the FCC provides templates for broadband labels – one for landline and one for mobile – that service providers may use to supply consumers with information about their services.

Consumer Information

Consumer Information

Sample Consumer Label for Fixed Broadband Services

If a provider uses a broadband label template, here's the type of information you can expect to see:

  • Pricing details, including all of the various charges that seem mysterious to consumers – overage fees, equipment fees, early termination fees, other monthly fees beyond service fees such as insurance, administrative fees, or regulatory recovery fees.
  • Monthly data allowance – namely, the carrier-defined plan limit after which consumers will incur additional charges.
  • Broadband speed and other performance metrics.
  • Network management practices – namely, precautions providers may take to manage heavy traffic on their networks.

Service providers who use the labels will satisfy the FCC's requirement to make transparency disclosures in the proper format, or a format that meets the needs of consumers. However, providers may still be in violation of FCC rules if the content of their labels is misleading or inaccurate or if they make misleading or inaccurate statements to customers in ads or elsewhere. In such cases, consumers can file complaints with the FCC at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov.

The new rules will go into effect later this year, but service providers may begin using the broadband label templates anytime. The labels can serve as a helpful comparison shopping tool for consumers. Look for and consider them when you shop for service.

More information

 

Sample Labels

Sample Labels

FCC open internet transparency rules require broadband providers to disclose commercial terms, network performance and network management practices. These rules were created to give consumers an easy way to shop for broadband services. Providers are also required to convey this information in a simple-to-understand format.

With advice from the Consumer Advisory Committee, the FCC issued the broadband labels to assist service providers in fulfilling their disclosure requirements. The links below include sample labels to educate consumers, and blank forms and instructions for service providers.

Fixed Broadband Label Sample Thumbnail
Fixed Broadband Forms
Sample Mobile Broadband Services Consumer Label Thumbnail
Mobile Broadband Forms
Sample Label for Consumers - Word | PDF
Blank Form for Service Providers - Word | PDF
Instructions for Service Providers - Word | PDF
Sample Label for Consumers - Word | PDF
Blank Form for Service Providers - Word | PDF
Instructions for Service Providers - Word | PDF

 

Etiquetas para Banda Ancha Fija Etiquetas para Banda Ancha Móvil
Etiqueta de muestra para Consumidores - Word | PDF
Etiqueta en blanco para Proveedores - Word | PDF
Instrucciones para Proveedores - Word | PDF
Etiqueta de muestra para Consumidores - Word | PDF
Etiqueta en blanco para Proveedores - Word | PDF
Instrucciones para Proveedores - Word | PDF

 

Terminology

Terminology

Performance

Speeds - downstream and upstream

Downstream speed is the number of bits per second that you can successfully receive, and upstream speed is the number of bits per second that you can successfully send. These speeds are averages measured during the peak usage period of the service. Downstream and upstream speeds decrease when there is network congestion.

Downstream speed may affect the perceived quality of most applications. Large files will download in less time at higher downstream speeds. Webpages will load in less time at higher downstream speeds, but further reductions in load time lessen with further increases in speed. Load times are also affected by other factors such as the speed of the webserver. When streaming video or using video chat, your viewing experience improves at higher speeds, but further improvements in quality may become less noticeable with further increases in speed. Upstream speed may affect the perceived quality of applications that transmit substantial amounts of information, such as photo uploads and video chat.

The perceived quality of most applications depends on how many people and devices are using your Internet connection at the same time. The more people and devices using the connection, the greater demand for downstream and upstream speed.

Latency

Latency is commonly measured as the time it takes for a data packet to travel back and forth over the broadband provider's network. Lower latency means better quality, but a small amount of latency associated with the distance travelled is unavoidable.

Latency may substantially affect the perceived quality of highly interactive applications like phone calls over the Internet, video chat, or online multiplayer games, particularly when latency exceeds a few tenths of a second. However, you are unlikely to notice differences in the quality of phone calls over the Internet or video chat when latency is below a few tenths of a second (a few hundred milliseconds), and you are unlikely to notice differences in the quality of online multiplayer games when latency is below approximately one tenth of a second (one hundred milliseconds).

Latency may also significantly affect the perceived quality of less interactive applications like web browsing or video streaming, but less dramatically. The load time of a webpage is affected by latency, but you are unlikely to notice differences in load times when latencies are below a few tenths of a second. You are also unlikely to notice differences in the quality of video streaming when latency is below approximately one second.

Packet loss

Packet loss is commonly measured as the percentage of packets that enter the broadband provider's network but are not delivered. The most common cause of packet loss is network congestion. Lower packet loss means better quality, but a small amount of packet loss is expected, and some applications adjust their sending rate by measuring packet loss.

Packet loss may significantly affect the perceived quality of real-time applications like phone calls over the Internet, video chat, online multiplayer games, and video streaming. However, you are unlikely to notice differences in the quality of these applications when packet loss is below a few tenths of a percent.

Packet loss is unlikely to substantially affect the perceived quality of web browsing and email.

Network Management

Application-specific network management practices

A network practice is application-agnostic if it does not treat traffic differently, or if it does, it does not do so based on the content, application, or device. A practice is application-specific if it is not application-agnostic. Application-specific network practices include, for example, those that treat traffic differently based on: a particular source or destination, application or class of applications, or particular characteristics (for example, the size, sequencing, and/or timing of packets).

Subscriber-triggered network management practices

A network practice is subscriber-triggered if it is applied to a particular user or user group, e.g. the service plan to which users are subscribed, the volume of data that users send or receive over a specified time period of time or under specific network conditions, or the location of users.

File a Complaint

File a Complaint

If you feel the content of a service provider's broadband label is misleading or inaccurate, or that a service provider made misleading or inaccurate statements to customers in ads or elsewhere, you can file a complaint with the FCC.

You have multiple options for filing complaint with the FCC:

  • File your complaint online
  • By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322); ASL Videophone: 1-844-432-2275
  • By mail (please include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible):

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20554

 

File a Complaint with the FCC

 

Visit our Consumer Complaint Center at consumercomplaints.fcc.gov to file a complaint or tell us your story.

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Consumer Help Center

Learn about consumer issues - visit the FCC's Consumer Help Center at www.fcc.gov/consumers.

 

Date Last Updated/Reviewed: 
Friday, September 8, 2017