|Date: October 17, 1997|
FCC INSIDE WIRING RULES
1997 Inside Wiring Order
On October 17, 1997 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued its long-awaited rulemaking on cable inside home run wiring (FCC 97-376). NMHC filed extensive comments with the FCC during the rulemaking process. In the FCC's Report and Order 97-376, the Commission ruled that in cases where the incumbent video service (i.e., cable) provider no longer has a legally enforceable right to remain on the premises:
The Multiple Dwelling Unit (MDU) owner may give the incumbent service provider a minimum of 90 days written notice that the provider's access to the entire building will be terminated.
The incumbent service provider will then have 30 days to notify the MDU owner in writing of its election to do one of the following for all home run inside wiring inside the MDU: (1) to remove the wiring and restore the MDU consistent with state law within 30 days of the end of the 90-day notice period or within 30 days of actual service termination, whichever comes first; (2) to abandon and not disable the wiring at the end of the 90-day notice period; or (3) to sell the wiring to the MDU owner.
If the MDU owner refuses to purchase the home run wiring, the MDU owner may permit the alternative service provider (the provider who will supersede the incumbent provider) to purchase the wiring.
If the incumbent provider elects to remove or abandon the wiring, and it intends to terminate service before the end of the 90-day notice period, the incumbent provider will be required to notify the MDU owner at the time of this election of the date on which it intends to terminate service.
The FCC assumes that both the incumbent provider and the MDU owner will bargain in good faith regarding terms and conditions for disposition of the cable. In addition, this Report and Order includes rules for unit-by-unit disposition of inside wiring where more than one provider is present.
Significantly, FCC 97-376 states that the FCC will not establish a federal mandatory access requirement at this time and it will not seek to preempt any state mandatory access requirements. Also covered are rules for allowing access by more than one provider if the MDU owner chooses to have multiple providers in a building.
On January 29, 2003 the Federal Communications Commission issued an Order (FCC 03-9) amending its inside wiring rules to make it easier for apartment firms to switch or add new cable providers and allowing apartment firms to continue to negotiate exclusive contracts with video providers.
The Order rejected calls from several telecom providers to ban exclusive contracts as part of the telecom firms' efforts to secure "forced access" to private apartment properties. It also amended the inside wiring rules to clarify that wiring located behind sheetrock is considered "physically inaccessible".
Essentially, the new rules move the demarcation point, or the point at which an incumbent cable provider will cut its cable if the owner does not renew an agreement, to 12 inches outside the lock box or the junction box, instead of 12 inches outside each apartment unit, for most properties. Since the latter is often behind sheet rock, under the prior rules, owners hoping to change or add providers risked service outages and property damage. The rules also force the incumbent operator to cooperate with the incoming provider to minimize service disruptions.
The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) successfully sued the FCC to block the rules. The Court ruled that the FCC's "sheetrock" decision was not supported by the record.
Following the court ruling above, the FCC reopened the sheetrock issue and solicited additional comments. On May 31, 2007, the FCC adopted an Order (FCC 07-111) restating the FCC’s 2003 Order that cable wiring located behind sheet rock is considered "physically inaccessible."
This ruling means that existing cable companies cannot cut through sheetrock to remove their wiring at the end of a contract. More importantly, it allows property owners to encourage competition by directing competitor video providers to access the wiring at more practical points, such as in an equipment closet.
2008 Update: The NCTA filed a second lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2007 FCC Order; however, on October 23, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied the NCTA's request to review the Order. The court held that the FCC relied on relevant data and provided a satisfactory explanation to support its decision. NMHC/NAA submitted a "friend of the court" brief in support of the FCC's Order.
- Court Ruling Facilitates Multiple Cable Providers on a Property
- NMHC Amicus Brief Supporting FCC Sheetrock Order
- Real Access Alliance Comments on FCC Sheetrock Order
- 1997 Inside Wiring Rule (FCC 97-376)
- 2007 FCC Order (FCC 07-111)
- 2003 FCC Order (FCC 3-09)
- 2008 Appeals Court Ruling Upholding FCC Order 07-111