FCC Chair Rosenworcel Proposes Multitenant Dwelling ‘Loophole’ Fixes

A multi-dwelling building in the East Village of New York
The FCC wants to close loopholes that deny apartment dwellers and others a choice of ISPs. (Image credit: Alexander Spatari via Getty Images)

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to close what it says are loopholes that have allowed broadband providers to evade rules that are supposed to allow tenants in Multi-Tenant Environments (MTEs) — such as apartments, condos or mobile homes — to have choice among internet services.

Acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel

Jessica Rosenworcel (Image credit: FCC)

The agency in September asked for a new round of comments on its proceeding. FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel Friday (Jan. 21) circulated a Report and Order and Declaratory Ruling to the other commissioners that would take a number of steps in that direction.

Specifically, the Report and Order would:

1) Prohibit providers and dwelling owners (park owners in the case of mobile homes) from striking exclusive revenue-sharing agreements;

2) Requite providers to let tenants know “in plain language” if they have exclusive marketing arrangements with building owners — though importantly it does not prohibit such arrangements.

Also: FCC Seeks Input on Broadband and MTEs

The Declaratory Ruling would “clarify” that current rules prohibit sale or leaseback arrangements that have the effect of blocking alternate providers.

“With more than one-third of the U.S. population living 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,” she said. “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.”

It's not a lock, but the fact that she has circulated it and promoted that circulation suggests she has the votes, including at least one Republican vote, to pass it.

"The proposal by Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to expand internet options for apartment dwellers is welcome news," said Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports. "Despite exclusive arrangements between ISPs and landlords being banned for years, it's time to finally put an end to practices and close loopholes that stifle broadband competition and consumer choice, especially for those most in need. We know that when consumers have more choices for internet service, they enjoy lower prices." ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.