FCC Notice of Inquiry on Multiple Tenant Environments

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is a Federal agency much in the news these days. They conduct government oversight of the nation’s telecommunications industry, including Internet Service Providers and cable TV companies. The spotlight is on the FCC right now because they are considering changing the rules about net neutrality. But there is another issue that the FCC is considering that could greatly affect occupants of Seattle’s apartments and condominiums.

The FCC is currently seeking comments about how to encourage greater consumer choice and improve high-speed internet access in multiple tenant environments (MTEs) such as apartments and condominiums. The FCC hopes to speed up the construction of next-generation networks and to increase innovation and competition in the market for high-speed internet access.

The policy of the City of Seattle is to ensure Seattle residents have access to equal, affordable, and competitive broadband internet services. Seattle agrees with the FCC’s goal of improving competitive broadband access to MTEs. There is much that the FCC can do to try to meet this goal, but there is also much that the FCC can do to hinder Seattle’s efforts in this area.

Some of the ideas that the FCC is considering have the potential to improve the situation for occupants of MTEs. For example, regulations that prohibit exclusive service agreements between service providers and property managers – regulations that exist today – increase competition and result in more choices or better prices for consumers.

However, some of the ideas that the FCC is considering have the potential to make the situation worse for residents of MTEs. Things like preempting local regulations about provider access to building internet wiring could limit the efforts of local governments, who are most familiar with the real-world issues in MTE buildings, in encouraging more competition in serving occupants of MTEs.

The City of Seattle is concerned that a negative ruling by the FCC could hinder the efforts of the City and other local governments to increase internet access through voluntary efforts, building codes, and property management measures. Seattle IT is closely following and participating in this data-gathering exercise of the FCC to ensure that the rights of Seattle’s occupants of MTEs are protected. The City filed comments with the FCC on July 24; click here to review the comments. Reply comments are due to the FCC by August 22. After that, the FCC will determine what actions, if any, it should take to improve high-speed internet access in MTEs.

The City of Seattle is taking steps to improve competition in providing internet service to MTEs. Seattle is currently surveying MTE occupants and MTE property managers in an effort to document the current state of competition in our MTE environment. The City is also planning a workshop in the fall to explain to property owners and managers about best practices that can be used to encourage additional internet service providers to serve their buildings.

~Rita Bellitto