The Federal Communications Commission later this month will kick off a rulemaking process requiring broadband service providers to disclose pricing details and other information to consumers. Also on the agenda for the commission’s next open meeting will be the question of how to facilitate better use of “white space” spectrum.
Congress and the administration directed the FCC to promulgate broadband labeling rules as part of the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. So, the commission will require broadband providers to label their offerings with disclosures analogous to the nutritional labels on food products. The information would include information about pricing, introductory rates, broadband speeds, data allowances, and management practices.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel explained in a letter ahead of the January 27 meeting that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act “called for new transparency in the broadband marketplace to make sure consumers know what they’re paying for.”
The FCC previously introduced ISP package labeling in 2016 as part of the Open Internet Order, but that system ended with the repeal of the order in 2017. That previous labeling program was voluntary, whereas the new proposal calls for them to be mandatory.
In other business, the commission is set to consider how to optimize the use of the so-called “white space” in the airwaves between TV channels. This space is often used by devices such as wireless microphones. The proposed rules would aim to ensure unlicensed devices can continue using those white spaces without interfering with other spectrum users by facilitating better communication between the two.
“The Commission will vote to simplify our rules and provide additional regulatory certainty to white space device users, manufacturers, and database administrators,” Rosenworcel wrote. “This will enable unlicensed white space devices to operate more efficiently and effectively, while protecting wireless microphone users and others from harmful interference.”
The commission will also vote on modernizing equipment authorization rules, updating political programming and record-keeping rules, and providing more support to tribal libraries, among other items.
The January 27 meeting will be live-streamed on the FCC’s website.