Telecom, Cable Groups Raise Concerns Over Broadband Labels

Several telecom and cable associations told the FCC its new broadband nutrition label requirements are hard to comply with and a burden to the industries. The point of the labels is to make it easier for consumers to compare service plans and make pricing more clear. When the agency published the new rules last fall, it also asked for input on unresolved questions.

Representatives of CTIA, ACA Connects – America’s Communications Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, USTelecom – The Broadband Association, and the undersigned of NCTA – The Internet & Television Association recently met with agency officials to discuss their petition for reconsideration or clarification of certain points. The industry representatives explained that the requirement that providers document every instance where the company directs a customer to the label at an alternative sales channel “is wholly unwarranted,” they said in a filing that describes the meeting. 

The associations reiterated their suggestion in their petition, “that the Commission clarify that a provider satisfies these rules by developing appropriate business practices to promote distribution of the label through alternative sales channels and retaining documentation of these practices for two years,” they said, according to the filing. They also explained that requiring broadband providers to display the pass-through of fees imposed by federal, state, or local government agencies on the consumer broadband label “is an unwarranted departure” from the Commission’s previous approach.

“This new requirement would add unnecessary complexity and burdens to the label for consumers and providers and could result in some providers having to create many labels for any given plan,” they state. “These unnecessary burdens would be felt by both small and large providers.”

The associations note that the FCC itself acknowledged some broadband providers may need to create “tens of thousands of labels” in order to comply with this requirement. The associations say a better approach, not opposed by anyone, “is for the Commission to require providers to include an explanatory statement that such fees may apply and that they vary by jurisdiction, similar to the Commission’s treatment of government-imposed taxes.”

Alternatively, the associations proposed requiring the display of the maximum level of government-imposed fees that might be passed through, so that consumers “would not experience bill shock” with respect to such fees.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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