FCC Chairwoman Announces Push To Lower Broadband Costs

FCC Chairwoman Announces Push To Lower Broadband Costs & Increase Choice For Families Living In Apartment Buildings

Proposal Seeks to Eliminate Arrangements Imposed on Tenants That Force Them to Stick to a Specific Service Provider

The FCC announced a plan to lower costs and address the lack of choice for broadband services available to households in apartments, condos, public housing, and other multi-tenant buildings.  Too often, tenants living in these households are forced to pay high prices with limited choices for internet or other services.  The FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel's proposal would seek to eliminate “bulk billing” arrangements imposed on tenants that impose a specific broadband service provider for their household. 

"Everyone deserves to have a choice of broadband provider," said Chairwoman Rosenworcel. "That is why it is not right when your building or apartment complex chooses that service for you, saddling you with unwanted costs, and preventing you from signing up for the plan and provider you really want.  This proposal shuts down these practices.  It boosts competition and consumer choice and builds on our ongoing efforts to improve broadband transparency."

The Chairwoman will share with her FCC colleagues a proposal which, if adopted by a vote of the full Commission, would seek comment on actions the agency can take to lower costs and encourage greater choice of communications services for the millions of Americans living and working in multi-tenant environments.

Specifically, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would propose banning bulk billing arrangements by which tenants are required to pay for broadband, cable, and satellite service provided by a specific communications provider, even if they do not wish to take the service or would prefer to use another provider.  It proposes allowing tenants to opt out of bulk billing arrangements.  The proposal would also increase competition for communications service in these buildings by making it more profitable for competitive providers to deploy service in buildings where it is currently too expensive to serve consumers because tenants are required to take a certain provider’s service.  The Commission would also seek comment on other practices that may limit consumer choice in multi-unit buildings.

These new proposed rules continue a series of consumer-focused proposals to combat junk fees and support transparency for consumers.  At its next Open Meeting, the Commission will vote on final rules to require cable and satellite TV providers to specify the “all-in” price clearly and prominently for video programming service in their promotional materials and on subscribers’ bills.  The Commission is preparing the upcoming launch of the mandatory Broadband Consumer Labels so that consumers can clearly see the price and quality of broadband when they sign up and has proposed to eliminate early termination fees from cable and satellite TV providers.  

The proposal builds on the Commission’s 2022 rules, which sought to increase competition and transparency in multi-tenant environments.  Those rules prohibit broadband providers from entering into certain revenue sharing agreements with a building owner; require providers to clearly and accessibly inform tenants about the existence of exclusive marketing arrangements; and clarified that FCC rules regarding cable inside wiring prohibit so-called sale-and-leaseback arrangements that block competitive access to alternative providers.  Those rules went into effect later that year.

Source: FCC media announcement

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