FCC’s Rosenworcel is happy about new MDU broadband rules

Nary a day goes by in the world of telecom and wireless news where some group or another isn’t fretting about the effects of new competition in the broadband ecosystem. Some are worried about the horrors of “overbuilding,” others are concerned about the possible effects on the stock prices of the incumbents and still others want to make sure that the billions in federal funding are dispensed for the technologies that they favor.

Speaking at an event today hosted by the University of Colorado at Boulder, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel was asked if she was doing anything to introduce more competition in the broadband landscape.

Rosenworcel said she was glad to answer that question because just this week the FCC announced that it had adopted new rules to unlock broadband competition in multi-tenant buildings.

The rules prohibit broadband providers from entering into certain revenue sharing agreements with a building owner that keep competitive providers out of buildings. The rules also require providers to inform tenants about the existence of exclusive marketing arrangements in simple, easy-to-understand language that is readily accessible. 

And in a Declaratory Ruling, the FCC clarified that existing Commission rules regarding cable inside-wiring prohibit arrangements that block competitive access to alternative providers.

At the CU event Rosenworcel said one third of the people in this country live in multi-tenant environments, which includes apartment buildings and condominiums. “It turns out in a lot of those apartment buildings the landlords and building owners set up sweetheart deals with one broadband provider. So you move into that building, and you don’t have a choice. That’s kind of perverse because if you think about it, these are the densest living environments we have in this country. They’re the ones that are the most hospitable to competition and the infrastructure that produces it.”

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She said the new rules, which were approved by the Commission in a 4-0 vote, will prevent those kinds of sweetheart deals.

“We think that apartment buildings and condominium complexes and public housing are places where competition is most likely to thrive,” she said. “And that’s what lowers prices and increases innovation.”

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Some incumbents are probably not thrilled with the new rules.

But Starry, a fixed wireless technology developer, praised the FCC for taking action. Starry currently provides internet service to more than 340,000 units of multifamily housing.  

“The Commission recognizes that competition is a key ingredient to driving broadband affordability,” said Starry CEO Chet Kanojia. “By taking these steps to eliminate incumbent provider practices that served no purpose other than to block competition, the Commission will increase choice, expand availability of affordable broadband options and provide building owners with more flexibility.”