FCC Could Require Mobile Carriers To Disclose Throttling, Typical Speeds Via 'Nutrition Labels'

The three major mobile carriers boast of offering “unlimited” data, but many of the plans they sell are anything but unlimited.

Instead, the fine print in the companies' ads lists all sorts of conditions on service, ranging from the possibility of slowdowns to hard caps on hotspot use. For instance, AT&T reserves the right to throttle customers who sign up for two of the company's three so-called unlimited plans. People who sign up for the third unlimited plan don't face smartphone throttling, but can only use 40 GB of hotspot broadband data per month -- which crimps their ability to tether the phones to laptops or other devices.

Some “unlimited” plans available from Verizon and T-Mobile also allow the company to slow down broadband service -- usually after people exceed a data cap and there's congestion on the network.



The upshot is that consumers who, say, plan to stream video during a long trip might want a different “unlimited” plan than people with access to WiFi connections throughout the day. But sifting through the various policies and their restrictions can be a daunting process.

This situation, however, could soon change.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on whether to craft regulations that would force broadband providers to standardize the information they give consumers. The FCC previously considered issuing rules during the Obama era, but dropped the initiative during the last administration.

The agency's “notice of proposed rulemaking” revives those former proposed rules, which would have required mobile providers to use a standard “nutrition label” format to disclose prices, typical speeds and throttling practices.

“Access to accurate, simple-to-understand information about broadband internet access services helps consumers make informed choices and is central to a well-functioning marketplace that encourages competition, innovation, low prices, and high-quality service,” the agency writes. “It does so by enabling consumers to comparison shop when choosing broadband services and providers that best meet their needs and match their budgets.”

Next story loading loading..