Policymakers at several levels of government are focused on broadband competition and the ability of households to obtain Internet access. In January 2017, the City of San Francisco passed a mandatory access law (MAL) designed to address this issue. A 2019 analysis conducted by NMHC, however, found no observable relationship between the presence of state mandatory access laws (MALs) and a multi-tenant environment (MTE) household’s likelihood of having broadband Internet access.
- The analysis, which utilized the 2017 American Community Survey microdata, controlled for other factors likely to affect Internet access, such as a householder’s age, race, income, and educational attainment.
- NMHC found that lower-income households, Black and Hispanic householders, and householders without a High School or college degree were less likely to have broadband Internet access.
However, a more direct way to estimate the impact of a mandatory access law is to measure Internet access rates both before and after such a law is implemented. The city of San Francisco provides us with a unique natural experiment given its 2017 MAL.
In 2016, prior to the law taking effect, 89.3% of apartment households reported having broadband Internet access in San Francisco. This share actually decreased to 86.8% of apartment households in 2021, although this change was not statistically significant.
The share of single-family households in San Francisco with broadband Internet access – which we wouldn’t expect to be impacted by the 2017 law – remained unchanged at 90.1% from 2016 to 2021. To control for the influence of other potentially confounding variables on broadband access, we ran a simple logit model shown below:
The results from our model suggest that lower-income households, younger households, households with householders who are Black, Asian or Hispanic, and households with householders without a college degree were less likely to have broadband Internet access in San Francisco.
More importantly, our results show no evidence that San Francisco’s 2017 mandatory access law had any effect on broadband Internet access. Apartment households in the city – relative to their non-MTE counterparts – appear no more or less likely to have had broadband Internet access in 2021 compared to 2016.
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