Ms. Marlene H. Dortch
Federal Communications Commission
45 L Street, NE
Washington, DC 20554
RE: Improving Competitive Broadband Access to Multiple Tenant Environments (No. 17-142); 86 FR 52120
Dear Ms. Dortch:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Engagement Center (“C_TEC” or “the Chamber”) appreciates the opportunity to respond to the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC” or “Commission”) request to update the record on the 2019 “Improving Competitive Broadband Access to Multiple Tenant Environments Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).”1 In that proceeding, the FCC sought to address broadband access to multiple tenant environments (“MTEs”) and business arrangements between MTE owners and Internet service providers (“ISPs”).
Nearly 2 in 10 Americans (17%) live in apartment buildings or condominiums, and tens of millions of Americans work in commercial office buildings.2 As demonstrated by ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, broadband service is essential to ensure that Americans can engage in key services such as e-commerce and telemedicine as well as ease the return to in-office work. Consequently, broadband service to MTEs is critical to close the digital divide and empower all Americans to benefit from the Internet economy. As the FCC contemplates any revisions to its 2019 proceeding, C_TEC makes the following observations and recommendations.
First, it is important to note that robust competition exists and consumers often have multiple options to get broadband service. Moreover, since the 2019 proceeding, we are seeing the introduction of new and innovative broadband deployment options including satellite and fixed mobile broadband, which ultimately enhances market competition, including within MTEs. If the FCC plans to revise the 2019 proceeding, the burden should be on the FCC and proponents of proposed changes to clearly demonstrate that the current state of competition is harmful to consumers and that any suggested remedies would substantively improve competition and provide tangible benefits for consumers.
Second, C_TEC believes that many of the business practices identified in proceeding are in fact pro-competitive and are legitimate contractual arrangements between ISPs and MTE owners. For example, exclusive wiring arrangements provide the certainty necessary for ISPs to make substantial investments in modern wiring that benefits consumers through enhanced broadband service. Likewise, bulk pricing enables ISPs to provide broadband service to MTE tenants at discounted rates. C_TEC recommends that the FCC fully consider the benefits of the business practices covered under this proceeding to consumers and tenants as the FCC continues its work on this issue.
Third, C_TEC encourages the FCC to identify any regulatory barriers that inhibit broadband deployment to MTEs. These barriers include permitting requirements, and excessive city and county right-of-way franchises. Similarly, we express significant concern with certain local regulation of MTE and ISP business arrangements that are inconsistent with federal policy, such as local regulations on mandatory shared access to wiring. C_TEC believes that those laws should be preempted by the FCC given the adverse impact on broadband deployment and the FCC’s important role to promote facilities-based competition. Furthermore, C_TEC strongly discourages the FCC from pursuing any policies that would inhibit private sector broadband deployment more broadly, considering the critical role the private sector plays in addressing the digital divide.
Finally, C_TEC notes that Section 5(a)(l)(vii) of Executive Order (EO) 14036, “Promoting Competition in the American Economy” encourages the FCC to issue a rulemaking to prevent Internet service providers and landlords from limiting Internet service choice among tenants.3 The Chamber disagrees with the Executive Order’s premise that the United States lacks competitive marketplaces and we are concerned that proposals stemming from Executive Order, including this refresh of the record, would significantly impede the provision of critical services to consumers and inhibit innovation. Further, the Chamber is concerned that the FCC seems to be implementing the policy recommendations contained in the Executive Order, which is contrary to the FCC’s status as an independent Federal regulatory agency.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this proceeding and if you have any follow up questions, I may be reached at (202) 463-5973 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Chamber Technology Engagement Center
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- Improving Competitive Broadband Access to Multiple Tenant Environments, 86 Fed. Reg. 52120 (proposed Sept.
- Charlotte O’Malley, 80 Percent of Americans Prefer Single-Family Homeownership, BUILDER (Aug. 13, 2013), https://www.builderonline.com/money/economics/80-percent-of-americans-prefer-single-family-homeownership_o.
- Exec. Order No. 14,036, 86 Fed. Reg. 36987 (July 9, 2021).
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