FCC Seeks Comment on Speeding Deployment Of Broadband Services to Multi-Unit Premises

Concerned that its current policies on contractual and non-contractual arrangements between service providers and owners/managers of commercial multiple tenant environments (“MTEs”  such as apartment buildings, condominiums, shopping malls, etc.) might be hindering deployment of broadband deployment to those multi-unit premises, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has released a draft Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) seeking comment on whether it should revisit those policies.  The draft NOI is teed up for a vote in the FCC’s June 22, 2017 Open Meeting.

The final NOI is likely to be virtually identical to the draft NOI, in which the FCC seeks public comment on:

  • Whether there are state and local regulations that inhibit broadband deployment and competition within MTEs and whether the FCC should preempt  such regulations.  If so, what is the legal authority for such preemption.
  • Whether and how the FCC should regulate exclusive marketing and bulk billing arrangements between multichannel video programming distributors (“MVPDs” including cable providers, direct broadcast satellite carriers, and other video programming carriers) and MTE owners. An exclusive marketing arrangement gives an MVPD exclusive rights to market its services to MTE residents. Bulk billing is an arrangement in which one MVPD provides services to every resident of an MTE at a discount from the retail rate the resident would pay if he/she contracted individually with the MVPD.
  • How revenue sharing agreements are affecting broadband competition within MTEs.  These agreements typically entail a carrier paying a pro rata share of revenue generated from residents’ subscription fees and a “door fee” to the MTE owner in exchange for access to the MTE.
  • How exclusive wiring arrangements might be harming MTE broadband competition.  FCC rules now provide that after a customer has ceased purchasing service from a provider, incumbent cable operators are required to make unused wiring available to others before removing it.
  • What is the potential impact of the FCC’s proposed reclassification of broadband Internet access service as an information service on its authority to regulate broadband deployment and competition within MTEs.

Comments and reply comments will be due 30 days and 60 days respectively after the final NOI is published in the Federal Register.

If you have any questions concerning this FCC proceeding, please contact Ronald E. Quirk, Jr., Head of The CommLaw Group’s Internet of Things Practice Group at req@commlawgroup.com, or 703-714-1305.

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