NMHC again filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on August 22, arguing against new regulatory limits on agreements between apartment companies and broadband providers. Specifically, NMHC argued that the ability of apartment owners to negotiate such agreements with broadband service providers does not hinder competition and rebutted unsupported assertions made by those favoring the regulation. NMHC also filed a letter jointly signed by eight trade associations representing a wide range of real estate sectors urging the FCC to refrain from imposing unnecessary and burdensome regulatory limits.
In June, the FCC approved a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) requesting input on the impact of exclusive marketing, bulk billing, revenue sharing and exclusive wiring agreements on competition for broadband services in residential and commercial “multiple tenant environments”(MTEs), including rental apartment communities, condominiums, community associations, shopping centers, offices and other centrally-managed properties.
NMHC filed initial comments in July, explaining that residents have been well-served by the existing regulatory environment, and new regulations could result in higher prices, lower service quality, decreased competition and slower broadband deployment. In an industry advocacy letter coordinated 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.
It’s unclear when, or whether, the FCC may propose regulatory action based on information submitted in response to the NOI, or act on a recent challenge to a San Francisco ordinance involving similar issues. This NOI is the latest development in what may be an extended period of deliberation 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 MBC’s challenge to the San Francisco ordinance.
The impact of the NOI on the FCC’s consideration of MBC’s petition is currently unclear. In the meantime, however, the San Francisco ordinance stands. NMHC will continue to vigorously represent the apartment industry’s interests and educate the FCC about the multifamily broadband market.