02 October 2009

ISP Labels

Nate Anderson at Ars Technica asks 'Does broadband need its own government "nutrition label"?'

Yes. Yes it does. Well, it doesn't need one. But it ought to have one.

Did I just support extra government intervention in commerce? I think I did. Mark your calendars. Seriously though, I think there are very few instances when making information available to consumers is a bad thing.*

(* Making information available does not mean you must hit consumers over the head with it. I'm looking at you, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and your fast food nutritional display requirements.)

Anderson worries that the proposed label (below) is still too technical for most people to understand. I think creating a label, or any document, describing the capabilities of a computer system that most people can understand is an impossible task. (If you don't believe me, read College Humor's Parents Just Don't Understand series, the internet classic Computer Stupidities, or any of the following sections of The Customer is Not Always Right: cable company, computer lab, computer repair, computer store, or tech support.) At a certain point you need to expect people to educate themselves, or ask someone for help, and not dumb-down the information you give them.

The one change I would make is forcing them to specify the "sales taxes and franchise fees" which "vary by location." In fact, I think most services with a long-term contract ought to be required to spell out exactly what fees, taxes, surcharges, etc. will be levied. I don't hold out much hope of that, because governments don't want to make their taxes any more explicit than businesses want to make their fees, so I would expect them to conspire to keep that part of a disclosure vague.

Finally, I can't talk about labeling without mentioning "Carbon Free Sugar."

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