What are broadband tags and are they useful?

What are broadband tags and are they useful?

To help consumers better understand broadband options, Congress has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to review its concept of broadband labels, with the goal of providing more detailed information about competing offerings from different providers. .

This overhaul mandate was passed as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and to understand what it means as well as what it seeks to accomplish, one needs to first understand what broadband labels are, as well as their history. The FCC first proposed the concept of broadband labels in 2009, eventually creating the templates that broadband providers will use in 2016. The idea is for providers to use these templates to share information such as the basic monthly cost of broadband, activation fees, monthly charges, discounts and other details regarding performance and reliability with consumers.

Since 2016, however, the idea has been largely put on hold and never fully realized – until now, with the new mandate seeking to change that.


In short, the pandemic.

Last year, President Biden signed the bipartisan IIJA, investing $550 billion to improve the country’s roads, bridges, water infrastructure, resilience and high-speed internet capacity. One of the provisions of the IIJA was for the FCC to create updated broadband labels that describe broadband products to customers, as well as regulations for Internet service providers on how to display these new labels.

The deadline for this provision was one year, which means the FCC could potentially announce its decision as early as November 15, 2022, barring some sort of delay.

“The pandemic has changed everything,” said Gary Bolton, president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association. “Everybody’s been forced to care about broadband, and that’s what pushed it to the top of lawmakers’ agendas and why we invest so much in infrastructure and laws like the IIJA to make sure every American is connected.”


According to Jon Peha, professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, consumers want more information to make an informed choice. At least that’s what a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab Security and Privacy Institute found.

Peha, study co-author and former FCC chief technologist, said, “There are a lot of people on both sides of this argument, who have discussed what consumers need, but nobody asked consumers rigorously. of path. So we launched this study, which I believe is the first large-scale study to find out what consumers really want.

Briefly, some of the findings are: consumers want more pricing details, existing broadband label proposals seem confusing, and finally, consumers want more information about performance and reliability.

Of those three concepts, the last one is unique because it’s not something the FCC has really considered before, Peha said.

“Internet service providers today will generally tell you what performance you can get under optimal conditions,” Peha said. “What consumers are telling us they really want is not the best possible performance, but they want to know what typical performance looks like, what normal performance looks like, and what performance well below normal looks like.”

As a result, the study used consumer feedback to create a new broadband label to compare to the FCC’s 2016 proposal.

Some of the key differences between the two are performance information, reliability, and network management practices, which Peha says refer to ISPs throttling traffic to deliberately degrade service to consumers.

Other additions include simplifying the numbers when it comes to the overall cost of getting broadband. However, despite these findings, there still seems to be denial from some internet service providers.


According to industry experts, the FCC will have to decide how to balance the needs of consumers and ISPs.

“How do you get the consumers they need without requiring too much information that it makes it too difficult for service providers?” said Bolton. “Internet service providers won’t want to paint themselves into a corner, so they want to keep things as broad as possible.”

On the other hand, he added, “It’s equally important that consumers know what they’re getting.”

Another concern is how these new labels will take into account the different needs of consumers.

“The problem is that the relevant information for one user is not the same as for another user,” Peha said. “For example, if you do a lot of video conferencing, you care about different things than you play online games, or if you have a consumer discount and a student discount with your own gear, you get a different price tag, so to give everyone what they want, that means there’s a lot of information.

According to Peha, two ways to solve this problem are that the FCC could make the information shared via the labels available to third parties or create layered labels with more information.

The first option would open the door for third parties to create custom tools that allow individuals to navigate all the data shared through the new broadband tags.

For example, “some organizations like Consumer Reports or other publications might take the raw data and create something that has all the information, then customize it by asking the person looking for specific information to answer certain questions” , Peha said.

Another option is to offer layered labels to show consumers the information they want based on what they are looking for instead of having a single label.

Ultimately, however, the FCC has the final say.

#broadband #tags

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