FCC Chair Aims To Increase Broadband Options In Apartments

Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel has circulated an order that would prohibit broadband providers from forging deals with landlords that can limit tenants' options.

If approved by the FCC, the order would prohibit broadband carriers from entering into either exclusive or “graduated” revenue sharing agreements with landlords, require carriers to tell tenants about any exclusive marketing arrangements with landlords, and prohibit “sale-and-leaseback” arrangements that could effectively limit tenants' ability to choose a broadband provider.

Since 2007, the FCC has prohibited exclusivity deals between landlords and cable and broadband providers. But the agency doesn't specifically prohibit arrangements regarding revenue sharing or exclusive marketing deals.

Last September, the agency sought comments from the public about how deals between building owners and broadband providers affect consumers' ability to access the internet. At the time, the FCC asked for updated comments about three types of deals -- revenue sharing arrangements, exclusive wiring agreements and exclusive marketing deals.

The request for comments came two months after President Joe Biden issued an executive order that directed the FCC to consider issuing regulations to “prevent landlords and cable and Internet service providers from inhibiting tenants’ choices among providers.”

Others, including the trade group Incompas, wireless broadband provider Starry and advocacy organizations said they supported new rules.

“Our member companies find that property owners are often unwilling to allow competitive broadband services in premises where they already have exclusive arrangements and revenue sharing agreements with incumbent providers,” Incompas said in an October filing with the FCC. “In those cases, consumers and businesses lose out on the faster speeds, lower pricing, and better customer service that competitors offer.”

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