FCC Bars Landlord Phone, ISP Deals
Sam Spatter; Ron DaParma, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A new federal ruling has changed the landscape for apartment tenants trying to choose who supplies their telephone and Internet services.
The Federal Communications Commission voted this week to bar telephone and Internet service providers from forging exclusive contracts with apartment buildings, saying such deals harm competition.
The FCC said its ruling will be particularly beneficial for apartment dwellers seeking so-called "triple play" packages from companies such as Verizon and Comcast that bundle telephone (both land and cell phones), television and high-speed Internet services.
Exclusive deals for cable services to apartments were banned in a previous ruling.
"There is no reason consumers living in apartment buildings should be locked into one service provider," said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin at the agency's meeting Thursday.
"The ruling will help give residents an opportunity to select their service provider and not be captive to one provider," said Kevin Keane, senior vice president of Lincoln Property Co., which has developed six apartment complexes in the region, including the 242-unit Lincoln at North Shore apartments where resident Donald Kelley is happy there are no such exclusive agreements.
"I consider it an amenity that they don't have such a restriction," said Kelley, who has lived at the complex for about three years. Comcast Cable provides his television and Internet service and Vonage provides his Internet-based phone service, he said.
Nationally, many landlords oppose the decision. Exclusive contracts help them negotiate lower prices and improved services, said Jim Arbury, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Multi Housing Council/National Apartment Association Joint Legislative Program.
"This is just the latest in a series of misguided attempts by the FCC to manufacture competition through regulation instead of forcing the telecom firms to compete for new business," Arbury said.
He said the groups may appeal the ruling in federal court. …