FCC proposal would curb ISP lock-ins at apartment complexes

Everyone else in the building has a broadband provider, so you have the same experience when you move to a new apartment. If a new proposal from the FCC is adopted, revenue-sharing between providers and building owners will be prevented and the door will be open to competitors.

The cost of wiring a building leads to an address being served by a single broadband provider. While investments should be rewarded, the internet service providers have found ways to hold onto neighborhoods.

Sometimes they are above-board, like an agreement with an apartment complex where the management gets kickbacks. Sometimes they are loopholes in existing rules, where an internet service provider arranges things so that it would be hard for a competitor to share infrastructure.

The new proposal was put forward by FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and summarized in a release. It would ban revenue sharing agreements completely, require other arrangements to be disclosed to tenants, and close loopholes that allow wiring to be effectively exclusive when it is meant to be leased or shared.

It's time to crack down on practices that lock out broadband competition and consumer choice with more than one-third of the U.S. population living in apartments, mobile home parks, condominiums, and public housing. Consumers have a choice of providers in their buildings. I am looking forward to having my colleagues join me in lifting the obstacles to competitive choice for broadband for the millions of tenants across the nation.

The Commission recently began looking into the issue, opening a comment period and investigating the evidence, and they found 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.

The current proposal is not a new rule but a solution to the problem of bad faith activity by internet service providers. The proposal will be made public at some point before the FCC votes on it, and there will be a considerable grace period before any of these shady arrangements are revised. If you want to switch providers soon, you have no choice but to keep hoping. Maybe next year.