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FCC chair proposal aims to open broadband choice in apartments, office buildings

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel shared with her colleagues a Report and Order and Declaratory Ruling that would promote competition and increase choice for broadband services for people living and working in multiple tenant environments (MTEs). The measures, if adopted, would halt practices that evade long-existing FCC rules intended to allow tenants to choose their own provider.

"With more than one-third of the U.S. population live in apartments, mobile home parks, condominiums, and public housing, it's time to crack down on practices that lock out broadband competition and consumer choice," said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. "Consumers deserve access to a choice of providers in their buildings. I look forward to having my colleagues join me in lifting the obstacles to competitive choice for broadband for the millions of tenants across the nation."

To promote broadband competition and deployment in MTEs, the Order and Declaratory Ruling, if adopted by a vote of the full Commission, would:

  • Prohibit providers from entering into graduated revenue sharing agreements or exclusive revenue sharing agreements with a building owner;
  • Require providers to disclose to tenants in plain language the existence of exclusive marketing arrangements that they have with building owners;
  • End a practice that circumvents the FCC's cable inside wiring rules by clarifying that existing Commission rules prohibit sale-and-leaseback arrangements that effectively block access to alternative providers.

The Chairwoman's proposal builds upon a 30-year record of Commission proceedings to promote competition in apartment buildings and other MTEs, including a long-standing ban on exclusive access contracts. Most recently, the Commission issued a Public Notice in September 2021 inviting a new round of comments in a proceeding examining competitive access to broadband in apartment and office buildings.

The record revealed a pattern of new practices that inhibit competition, contrary to the Commission's goals, and limit opportunities for competitive providers to offer service for apartment, condo and office building unit tenants. These practices could throttle consumer access to providers participating in the Commission's affordable broadband programs such as the Emergency Broadband Benefit and its successor, the Affordable Connectivity Program.

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