updated 04:40 pm EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Notice on Open Internet Transparency Rule tells ISPs to give accurate service information
In a public notice to Internet service providers, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reminded business that they cannot lie to consumers about the services they offer. The notice informs business and the general public that "every provider of broadband Internet access in the United States" is subject to the Open Internet Transparency Rule.
The Open Internet Transparency Rule was enacted to give consumers more information when selecting which broadband services they sign up for. The FCC rule focuses on information around speed and choices, including the requirement that providers must be "accurate and truthful." Disclosures on network management, terms of the service, pricing and performance are covered under the rule.
"Consumers deserve to get the broadband service they pay for," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "After today, no broadband provider can claim they didn't know we were watching to see that they disclose accurate information about the services they provide. The FCC's transparency rule requires that consumers get the information they need to make informed choices about the broadband services they purchase. We expect providers to be fully transparent about the details of their services, and we will hold them accountable if they fall down on this obligation to consumers."
Reminding providers that the FCC is watching, the agency said that the rule applies not only to fixed carriers that operate through cable and telephone lines, but fixed satellite and wireless providers. Mobile broadband access from wireless providers that offer access through data plans are subject to the Open Internet Transparency rule as well.
The notice continues, adding that providers that don't follow the rule can be subject to enforcement, which includes fines according to the Communications Act. The FCC adds that the Transparency Rule can only work as intended if providers are making accurate statements. This includes statements made through advertising and to the public at large.
It isn't enough to just bury it in fine print, the authority argues, saying that the statements must be made in obvious places including "mailings, on the sides of buses, on website banner ads or in retail stores." The FCC asserts that it isn't enough to point to an accurate description in another place after providing less-than-truthful information about the services in an area that consumers would be most likely to see it. According to the FCC, the statements must be consistent as well as accurate to any official disclosures made.
"We are committed to holding broadband Internet providers accountable if they fail to deliver on the commercial promised they make to the American people," said Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau Travis LeBlanc.