Martin: Time To Kill Exclusive Cable-MDU Deals

Washington – Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin is supporting adoption of a rule that would ban cable companies from excluding other communications companies from apartment buildings through the use of exclusive contracts.

Martin, speaking Friday at an event sponsored by the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push organization, said his rule would disproportionately benefit minorities because 40% of households headed by minorities live in apartment buildings, while apartment units make up 25% of the nation’s housing stock.

 “I think those people who live in apartments should have the same benefits of competition -- lower rates and better service – as people who don’t,” Martin said.

 While Martin’s support for a ban on exclusive contracts had previously been reported, he disclosed for the first time that he had sought formal support from the other FCC members only recently.

 “Just this week, I circulated an order to the other commissions that ... prohibits building owners from denying residents in that building a choice among video service providers,” Martin said.

 Martin’s reference to building owners could trigger a major legal battle with landlords, who do not believe the FCC has jurisdiction to regulate their freedom to enter contracts.

 “We are prohibiting exclusive deals,” Martin told reporters later, insisting that the rule would be enforceable against landlords. “It would involve anyone who was involved in those exclusive deals.”

Lastly, Martin said the rule he proposed would void all current exclusively contracts and wouldn’t take effect just when contracts were expiring.

“There are examples of companies that have signed perpetual exclusive deals. So if we don’t take some kind of step immediately, I think that would mean there would be some people who live in apartment buildings who would never be able to end of up having competition,” Martin said.