President Biden recently signed an Executive Order aimed at promoting competition across the economy by launching a whole-of-government effort encompassing 72 initiatives to review and tackle some of the most pressing competition problems across a variety of sectors. Much of the Order directs federal agencies to review and utilize existing authority to monitor and prevent over-consolidation in several fields including in technology, health care, financial services and other consumer facing industries. Included in the wide array of issues raised is the state of the broadband market.
As part of the Order, President Biden encouraged the FCC to take a host of measures to improve competition in the broadband market, increase pricing and service transparency and restore Obama-era Net Neutrality rules. The Order also encourages the Commission to “Prevent ISPs from making deals with landlords that limit tenants’ choices.” While disappointing to see the Administration rely on anecdotal rhetoric put forward by some providers who are trying to upend the successful, partnership-based model that has served the multifamily broadband market and its residents well, NMHC stands ready to assist the Biden Administration and the FCC in their work to improve connectivity and bridge the digital divide.
Over the past several years, NMHC has been leading industry efforts in numerous recent proceedings before the FCC, including several efforts that threaten existing communications contracts between service providers and property owners without evidence of a market failure or addressing actual barriers to broadband deployment. NMHC has argued that the current federal regulatory framework for agreements between property owners and service providers allows the market to work effectively to allocate scarce capital for network construction, maintenance and service upgrades while allowing for seamless connectivity across multifamily housing communities.
As the Biden Administration and the FCC continue to look at these issues, NMHC and its members will continue its work to highlight our shared goal of ensuring apartment residents have access to high quality, high speed and reliable broadband service. In fact, industry research shows that most apartment building residents already have access to two or more Internet service providers. Where that is not the case, in smaller, lower-income and more affordable properties, it is often due to broadband providers making the economic decision not to serve certain areas or certain properties because of the potential return on investment not being high enough.
The timeline for any further action by the FCC is uncertain as this point and will likely need to wait until President Biden appoints a permanent Chair of the Commission and nominates an additional Commissioner, which is certain to take considerable time. As the process unfolds, NMHC and its coalition partners will continue to make our case against further interference or regulation in the multifamily broadband market.
For more information on NMHC and NAA’s work on broadband and connectivity issues click here.