FCC encourages provider competition in multi-tenant buildings

  • 9 September 2022

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a long history of protecting the connectivity and communication rights of people living in community housing or multi-tenant buildings. This includes apartments, condominiums, gated communities, cooperatives, and even some commercial buildings all under the term Multi-Tenant Environment or "MTE".  Other terms used include Multi-Family Units (MFU) or Multi-Dwelling Units (MDU). Whatever the term may be used, the FCC implemented rules governing the regulated cable operators as far back as 1934 to ensure there was competition, and where competition didn't exist, that the services provided to customers were fair and reasonable.

The FCC has attempted to balance this position acknowledging that expanding the coverage of broadband internet and video services requires significant investment on the part of providers. In some ways, it has always put the FCC in a controversial position leaving one side or the other not satisfied they are doing everything they should. Though in review, knowing that at times both sides have been unhappy with decisions leads one to believe they are working in some middle high ground.

On February 15, 2022, the FCC released its latest declaratory ruling titled "Improving Competitive Broadband Access to Multiple Tenant Environments." This expands and clarifies previous rulings and applies to all entities regulated by the FCC. Earlier rulings were more blanket covering broad topic areas and as the Internet specifically has evolved, the decisions have narrowed to specific areas and issues.

The ruling, FCC-22-12, covered several key topics with clarifications over what is and is not allowed. These include:

Exclusive Marketing Agreement Disclosure. Regulated entities are required to disclose any exclusive marketing agreements with MTE's. While exclusive marketing agreements are allowed where the MTE only provides information about a single provider, this must be prominently disclosed to the tenants.

Banning Sale and Lease Back Agreements: Regulated entities used this method to get around previous orders by the FCC where they would install wiring, sell it to the MTE owner, and then lease it back exclusively for their use. These agreements are banned and existing agreements will no longer be enforceable. The FCC also reconfirmed that entities with existing cable installed in the MTE's must either remove, abandon, or lease the existing cabling they manage or control to other service providers.

Banning Revenue Sharing in any Form: Regulated entities are no longer allowed to enter into a revenue-sharing agreement with MTE Owners. This includes incentive or graduated revenue whare where the MTE owner is paid by the entity for meeting certain levels of subscribers.

Bulk Billing Arrangements: There was discussion about bulk billing and the commission re-confirmed their previous stance that bulk billing arrangements are allowed as tenants can see a significant reduction in rates with these agreements.

Rulings and Orders for some of these become effective in April 2022 with all of the rulings becoming effective by September 2022.

Interact Solutions supports these rulings as it allows competition with large incumbent providers and, in some cases, their monopolistic policies and procedures. This benefits the MTE Tenants with access to better pricing and services from independent service providers such as Interact Solutions.

Interact Solutions is not an FCC-regulated entity though the solutions we provide include our partners, some of whom are regulated. We also compete with many of the regulated entities in individual services though we are differentiated by our combination of services and the high level of customer service we offer.