On June 22, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously approved a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking input on the market for broadband in residential and commercial “multiple tenant environments” (MTEs) including rental apartment communities, condominiums, community associations, shopping centers, offices and other centrally-managed properties. Specifically, the FCC plans to review policies on exclusive marketing and bulk billing arrangements, as well as revenue sharing and exclusive wiring agreements between property owners and service providers.
Importantly, the NOI will also examine the impact of state and local regulations on broadband deployment and competition. This action coincides with the FCC’s consideration of a petition by the Multifamily Broadband Council (MBC) challenging a San Francisco ordinance that could impact an apartment company’s ability to manage broadband, video and communications services at their communities. The impact of the NOI on MBC’s petition is unclear at this time. We will review and respond to the NOI following its final publication.
NMHC filed comments on May 18 and June 9 supporting the challenge to the San Francisco ordinance, urging the FCC to preempt the law because it conflicts with federal policy. Regulations like the San Francisco ordinance are a disincentive to broadband investment in multifamily communities and ultimately harmful to consumers. In an advocacy effort led by NMHC, 24 apartment companies representing about 1.2 million apartment homes told the FCC that the market for communications services in the rental apartment industry is competitive in San Francisco and across the nation. More information about the ordinance and its impact on the rental apartment industry is available here.
NMHC successfully argued against regulation when the FCC previously examined broadband competition in the multifamily market. In a 2010 order, the FCC declined to prohibit exclusive marketing arrangements because, based on the record, they did not prevent or incumber competitive providers from serving apartment residents. Further, the FCC concluded that “bulk billing arrangements predominantly benefit consumers, through reduced rates and operational efficiencies, and by enhancing deployment of broadband.”