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Several Clarifications Sought

Industry Groups Raise Concerns About Certain Broadband Label Requirements

Industry groups asked the FCC to either clarify or reconsider parts of rules for the commission's consumer broadband labels. Some in comments posted Wednesday in docket 22-2 expressed concerns about the types of services and details required in the labels. Commissioners adopted the new labels in November, largely mirroring those established in 2016 (see 2211180077).

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Some of the rules "will be challenging to implement" without additional guidance, said ACA Connects, CTIA, NCTA, NTCA and USTelecom in joint comments. The groups sought clarification of rules requiring that certain fees imposed by state and local governments be displayed. "State and local governments impose a huge variety and quantity of fees on broadband providers," the coalition said, asking providers to be considered in compliance with the rule if they include a statement similar to tax disclosures or "identify generally the maximum dollar figure that will be passed through per month."

The groups also sought clarification on documentation of consumer interactions "regarding labels that occur through alternative sales channels." The associations asked that providers be allowed to satisfy the requirement by "establish[ing] the business practices and processes they will follow in distributing the label through alternative sales channels, retain[ing] training materials and related business practice documentation for two years." Providers are "highly incentivized" to ensure consumers have access to "sufficient, accurate information," they said, and "extensive documentation of every individual customer interaction" would "impose overwhelming administrative burdens for no apparent purpose."

In separate comments, CTIA asked the FCC to clarify that wireless providers have "the necessary flexibility to create labels that accurately describe their offerings." The group noted combining wireline and mobile labels into a single format doesn't "account for the fact that wireless providers compete by offering consumers different options." Let wireless providers display "taxes-included pricing" and data allowance options with "sufficient detail to identify their plan variations including different allowances for handsets and hotspots," CTIA said, saying the requested clarifications would "provide consistency and clarity in disclosures for consumers and providers."

A coalition of providers asked the FCC to clarify that "customized services" offered through the E-rate and rural healthcare programs aren't subject to the label requirement. Requiring labels for enterprise services offered through both programs is "contrary to Congressional intent and overly burdensome," said Crown Castle, altafiber, Metro Fibernet and Uniti Fiber in joint comments. The "vast majority" of services offered through both programs are "provided using dedicated circuits with custom network configurations" and "failing to clarify the order would lead to inconsistent treatment of these customized services," the providers said, asking for labels to be required in E-rate and rural healthcare competitive bids only for "standard mass-market broadband internet services requested."

More than one dozen rural carriers urged the commission not to establish additional label requirements that would "impose undue costs on small service providers or that reduce their speed and flexibility in responding to a competitive marketplace." Give small carriers discretion in secondary languages for their marketing, the coalition said, saying such providers are also "more likely to know when there are customers with specialized needs in their communities." The providers also asked the FCC not to require disclosures about cybersecurity practices at the point of sale, noting that threats are "constantly evolving" and it would be "difficult to develop a uniform standard to accurately benchmark a broadband service’s security posture in a manner that an average consumer ... would understand."