photo of Jessica Rosenworcel

Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy University of Michigan/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel pushes for more broadband competition in apartments, condos


Andrew Wyrich


Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel hyped up a recently proposed plan to give people living in multi-tenant buildings more choice for their broadband providers.

Rosenworcel, speaking at the annual INCOMPAS Policy Summit on Tuesday, explained in detail the proposal she unveiled last month. It would crack down on what are essentially broadband monopolies made through agreements between landlords and internet service providers (ISPs).

Technically, the FCC already has rules that ban exclusive contracts for apartments, but the proposal seeks to tighten loopholes that have been used.

Rosenworcel pointed out that one-third of Americans live in a multi-tenant unit such as apartments, condos, public housing, or mobile homes.

“If you’re one of them, broadband choice can be especially hard to find. There’s often only one provider in the building. There’s no competition. That means those who live in multi-tenant units can wind up paying higher prices for lower quality service,” Rosenworcel said.

Specifically, the proposal shared by Rosenworcel would prohibit ISPs from entering into graduated revenue sharing agreements or exclusive revenue sharing agreements with building owners. Rosenworcel said these kinds of agreements are when ISPs give the owner a cut of their revenue to get access to the building and its tenants, so if a tenant switches to a different ISP, the owner would get less money.

It would also require ISPs to disclose to tenants “in plain language” the existence of exclusive marketing agreements they made with building owners, and would no longer allow “sale-and-leaseback arrangements,” where providers sells its wiring to the building owner and leases it back on an exclusive basis.

“Some of these arrangements are complicated, but the idea is actually really simple: let’s make sure that everyone that lives in an apartment building or any kind of multi-tenant unit has a fair shot at competitive choice for broadband,” Rosenworcel said.

The push to crack down on the lack of broadband competition in multi-tenant buildings comes after President Joe Biden urged the commission to “prevent ISPs from making deals with landlords that limit tenants’ choices” in a wide-ranging executive order he signed last year.

Last September, the FCC asked the public for more information about revenue sharing agreements, exclusive wiring arrangements, and exclusive marketing arrangements between multi-tenant buildings and ISPs.

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