FCC Revisists Broadband Competition In Apartment Buildings

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday sought comments from the public on how deals between building owners and broadband providers affect consumers' ability to access the internet.

“With more than one-third of the U.S. population living in condos and apartment buildings, it’s time to take a fresh look at how exclusive agreements between carriers and building owners could lock out broadband competition and consumer choice,” acting FCC head Jessica Rosenworcel stated.

Specifically, the FCC asked for updated comments about three types of deals between broadband providers and building owners -- revenue sharing arrangements, exclusive wiring agreements and exclusive marketing deals.

The move comes two months after President Joe Biden issued a sweeping executive order aimed at promoting competition.

That order included several provisions relating to broadband, including a directive that the FCC consider issuing regulations to “prevent landlords and cable and Internet service providers from inhibiting tenants’ choices among providers.”

Since 2007, the FCC has prohibited exclusivity deals between landlords and cable and broadband providers, but the agency does not currently prohibit arrangements regarding revenue sharing, marketing or wiring.

The trade group Incompas -- which counts Facebook, Google and Netflix among its members -- voiced support for the FCC's move.

“Removing monopoly roadblocks in apartment and condo buildings will help bring faster broadband speeds, lower prices and more competition to over 100 million Americans,” Incompas CEO Chip Pickering stated Tuesday.

The organization previously urged the FCC to ban most “exclusive commercial arrangements” between incumbent broadband providers and building owners, arguing that revenue sharing agreements, as well as exclusive wiring and marketing deals, effectively leave tenants with only one option for broadband service.

“Despite the prohibition on exclusive access, the record is replete with details about how incumbent providers have employed various contractual provisions to preserve their monopolistic access to [multiple tenant environments] at the expense of competition and consumer choice,” the group told the FCC in 2019.

The cable lobbying group NCTA --The Internet & Television Association previously opposed any new restrictions on arrangements between landlords and broadband providers, arguing that new prohibitions “may inhibit investment and deployment in buildings.”

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