Copyright: Mark Van Scyoc

NMHC filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on July 24 arguing against imposing regulatory limits on the ability of rental apartment communities to negotiate exclusive marketing, bulk billing, revenue sharing or exclusive wiring agreements with broadband providers. In June, the FCC approved a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) requesting comments on the impact of such agreements on broadband competition in residential and commercial “multiple tenant environments” (MTEs) including rental apartment communities, condominiums, community associations, shopping centers, offices and other centrally-managed properties.

In an industry advocacy letter led by NMHC, 31 companies representing almost 1.3 million apartment homes emphasized the importance of retaining the ability to negotiate agreements with broadband providers to bring high-quality, competitively-priced service to their residents.

The FCC’s NOI also asked for input on the impact of state and local mandatory access laws on broadband deployment and competition, and whether they reduce broadband infrastructure investment or discourage maintenance of existing infrastructure. We explained that residents have been well-served by the existing regulatory environment, and limits on certain agreements between apartment communities and service providers could result in higher prices, lower service quality, decreased competition and slower broadband deployment.

This NOI is the latest development in what may be an extended period of consideration of the issue by the FCC. The NOI coincides with a petition to the FCC filed by the Multifamily Broadband Council (MBC) challenging a San Francisco mandatory access ordinance. The ordinance, known as Article 52, created a right for apartment residents to request service from a communications provider. NMHC filed comments with the FCC on May 18 and June 9, and facilitated an  industry advocacy effort supporting the challenge to the San Francisco ordinance.

The impact of the NOI on the FCC’s consideration of MBC’s petition is unclear at this time. In the meantime, however, the San Francisco ordinance stands. NMHC will continue its effort to advocate the apartment industry’s interests and educate the FCC about the multifamily broadband market. NMHC successfully argued against regulation when the FCC previously examined broadband competition in the multifamily market.