Consumer Alert: New FCC mandate will make internet providers show all costs up-front

FCC mandate will make it easier to determine internet costs

FCC mandate will make it easier to determine internet costs

Before you choose an internet service provider, you want to compare prices, right? But some providers make it really tough to tell what your all-in price will be. And they sometimes make it tough to tell exactly what you’re getting for the price.

So the Federal Communications Commission has mandated that all major internet providers post broadband fact labels, similar to nutrition labels. Big providers must have them posted by April 10.

Verizon has done it already. Their labels look very much like a nutrition label, and they’re easy to read. At the top of the label you see the name of the service and its monthly price. Additional charges and terms come afterward, then installation costs, deposits, late fees, tax, and termination fees. At the bottom you get plan speeds including typical upload and download speeds.

Now compare that to Spectrum’s current price sheet. At the top it gives you speed at MBPS (megabits per second). The faster the speed, the more it costs, as expected. But in tiny print, you learn those prices are only temporary — 12 or 24 months. It does not tell you how much you’ll pay after that.

I reached out to Spectrum and was sent a link to a price page, showing their lowest price. Internet service is actually $85 after the introductory period of $50. But this is not the price sheet a customer immediately finds on the website. This price sheet is apparently on the policy page.

And then there’s what Frontier currently posts. You learn it’s $65 a month, but it doesn’t tell me the speed — and that’s really important, especially for streaming, or downloading content. And in tiny print, it says one-time charges apply, but it doesn’t say what those charges are.

Greenlight’s pricing page is pretty clear. You know the speed you’re getting for each price point. You’re also told up-front about that monthly managed wi-fi fee. But you don’t learn that you have a $100 set-up fee until you get to the sign-up page.

That’s why these new broadband fact labels will be so helpful. You get all your costs up front. And that puts the power back in your hands. You can compare the whole price, then pick the best plan for the best price; no surprises.

Major providers must have their labels up by April 10. Small providers have until Oct. 10.