November 30, 2022

Lab Notes: November 2022

Ben Moskowitz

Director, Digital Lab at Consumer Reports

We analyzed 22,000 consumer broadband bills and found that consumers are saddled with confusing bills, high prices, and lack of competitive choices

CR recently unveiled findings of our massive study of 22,000 consumer broadband bills. The findings support what many consumer advocates have long argued: greater competition and choice leads to more affordable broadband options. “CR launched this initiative to find out the true cost of internet service. While we expected some confusing bills, we were surprised to see how difficult it was for consumers to understand what they’re paying for and the frequency of hidden fees,” says Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel at CR.

Working with partners across the country, we collected bills from all 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. While this study is not nationally representative and not predictive of the broadband market, it’s one of the most ambitious efforts of its kind to understand how much people are paying at a moment in time. For additional coverage and perspectives on our project, you can check out this piece in the The Washington Post and be sure to not miss the Post’s parody video.

These findings support our efforts to petition the FCC to require clear broadband pricing to appear on all monthly bills. The commission just adopted a new rule for internet providers to display a broadband label with the actual costs, fees, and speeds at the point of sale and in advertised offers. You can read more on our view on the FCC broadband label in Gizmodo.

 

CR introduces Permission Slip, a new app to take back control of your data

Earlier this month, CR introduced Permission Slip, an app which lets you tell companies to delete the personal data they collect about you with just one tap. Available for free on the App Store for iOS, Permission Slip allows you to easily contact dozens of companies that may be collecting, sharing or selling your data – and demand they stop. You can share your impressions on the app with the team via our feedback form.

 

New York is on the verge of leading the way on Right to Repair

CR president and CEO Marta Tellado recently published an op-ed in The New York Daily News that urges Governor Kathy Hochul to sign the landmark right-to-repair bill that’s been waiting for her signature for months. The bill, known as the Digital Fair Repair Act, would ensure consumers have the choice to fix their own electronic products or have them fixed by a servicer of their choosing, including those independent of the manufacturer. A recent New York Times tech story about the right to repair cited CR’s survey that found people want to fix their phones when they break, but that they face many obstacles.

In case you missed it

  • Taking a break from social media? To preserve your data and your security, read this first
  • CR joins effort urging Congress to pass two bipartisan bills to rein in the power of Big Tech
  • The Atlantic spoke with CR’s Justin Brookman about  the EU’s decision to require all smartphones to be equipped with the universal USB-C port and what that could mean for US consumers frustrated with the number of different cords and ports for charging their devices
  • CR continues to work with lawmakers in California and Colorado to strengthen and improve existing privacy laws 
  • CR submitted recommendations to the FTC on its privacy and security rulemaking

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