FCC Adds “Broadband Nutritional Labels,” Removes China Unicom

By Rich Sill 

The Federal Communications Commission held an open meeting on January 27th to vote on several proposed new rules. 

The first item on the agenda was to require broadband companies to provide important information to customers before they purchase broadband. This information includes prices, data speed, and data allowances. Broadband companies would present this information to customers like how the Food and Drug Administration requires food companies to provide consumers with nutritional information. This “Broadband Nutrition Label” motion was approved unanimously. 

The other major item, which passed unanimously, discussed at the meeting was voting to strip Chinese Unicom from the United States market, citing national security concerns and threat of espionage from the Chinese Communist Party. 

Broadband “Nutrition” Label 

Following this meeting, broadband providers are now required to disclose to consumers explicitly what they are paying for introductory service charges, data allowances, and data speed ranges. The Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act passed in November directed the FCC to come up with ways to make broadband companies more transparent.  

When presented with the item, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr stated that Americans are benefiting from more choice than ever before and more competition for their broadband dollars than ever before; as a result, internet speeds are up, and prices are down across the board. He went on to say that it is important that consumers are empowered to make informed choices among broadband providers and service plans. Likewise, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks elaborated that giving consumers better information will promote greater innovation, more competition, lower prices, all wins for the broadband ecosystem.   

However, the broadband nutrition label does not include fees from state and local government, which is a failure in the labeling process. Consumers will still be unable to accurately judge costs associated with their broadband choices without including this information, as state and local government fees would not be shown to consumers until a bill arrives.   

China Unicom 

The other major item on the agenda, which was also passed unanimously, was a motion to remove China Unicom from the United States market, citing national security concerns. China Unicom, which is a Chinese state-owned company, no longer has Section 214 authorization, meaning that is no longer allowed in the United States. 

Section 214 of the Communications Act of 1934 makes sure that the U.S. market is protected from “anti-competitive behavior” by a foreign market power. Citing these national security concerns. When discussing the item at the meeting, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr stated that it is time for a top-to-bottom investigation into Chinese state-owned telecom carriers. He continued by explaining how serious national security and law enforcement risks with China Unicom’s continued access to US-Telecom’s infrastructure, therefore they should lose their Section 214 authorization.  

FCC Decisions  

Each of these unanimous decisions by the FCC are efforts to make the broadband market more consumer-friendly, most notably in terms of cost and security. 

The new broadband labels will make it easier for consumers to choose a plan that best fits their needs; however, without including state and local government fees, consumers will still be partially left in the dark when trying to calculate expenses. The decision to remove China Unicom’s Section 214 authorization will keep the US market free from national security concerns coming from the Chinese government. 

Photo Credit: Public Domain