Broadband Group Speaks Out Against Apartment Exclusivity Practices

The trade group INCOMPAS says its members are getting locked out of apartment complexes due to incentive programs and exclusivity deals with management companies—and has asked the FCC to step in with changes to the rules. Apartment industry groups, however, argue that their members have worked to ensure a competitive broadband landscape.

When it comes to internet access, are apartment dwellers getting a raw deal? This trade group says yes.

INCOMPAS, which represents competitive telecom providers, particularly internet providers, recently made the case to the Federal Communications Commission that exclusivity agreements set up with apartment buildings are unfair to a large portion of the population. The FCC opened up a Notice of Inquiry [PDF] on the topic earlier this summer, in response to a request by the Multifamily Broadband Council , who spoke up in opposition to local rules in the San Francisco area.

INCOMPAS made its case in a set of filings to the FCC that apartment building owners are incentivized to support one vendor over another due to kickback schemes and other marketing arrangements, making it difficult for new competitors to gain a foothold in managed buildings. This, critics argue, creates a loophole that goes against the spirit of existing FCC rules.

“Exclusivity lock-ups and kickbacks have enabled landlords and big cable and telecom companies to skirt existing FCC policy, keeping prices high and customer service low,” stated INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering [PDF]. “Setting apartment consumers free is a key component of the broadband deployment agenda. We also encourage the FCC to support local communities fighting for more competition that will help bridge the digital divide and unlock fiber investment.”

On the other hand, the National Apartment Association, which represents the operators of multifamily dwellings, has a different take on the issue. In a June news release, the association said that it had done a survey of members that manage properties in San Francisco.

“The results of this survey show existing robust competition for the provision of communications services to the resident that is actively supported and developed by apartment building owners,” the association said. “Building owner participation in the process ensures that service providers offer tenant-responsive services.”

(ivanastar/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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