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Public Knowledge Says Comprehensive Multi-Tenant Exclusivity Bans Needed for Competition

Public Knowledge spokesperson warns about FCC’s new multi-tenant housing rules.

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WASHINGTON, March 14, 2022 – A panelist at March 2  Broadband Breakfast live event said the Federal Communications Commission will have to ban all exclusive agreements in multi-tenant housing in order to make service provider competition within them fair.

“Until the FCC bans all types of exclusive agreements, I don’t think we’re going to have the competition that we need to see for consumers,” said Jenna Leventroff, a Senior Policy Council at Public Knowledge, a non-profit that advocates for an open internet.

The comment comes after the FCC adopted rules on February 15 that give tenants in apartments and office buildings more transparency, competition and choice for broadband services. These final rules bar ISPs from entering into exclusive revenue-sharing arrangements with landlords of multi-tenant buildings; require providers to disclose to tenants “in plain language” the existence of exclusive marketing arrangements; and clarify rules to allow for multiple service providers to use building wires to deliver service.

But the agency stopped short of banning exclusive marketing contracts.

While Leventroff applauded the FCC for the work it did, she said she feels there is more to be done to ensure that competition within the broadband industry is flourishing. Once there is more competition for ISPs within multi-tenant housing, Leventroff predicts that prices will lower for the consumer.

“I think the FCC made great steps here. I think they did as much as they could do without having a full FCC,” said Leventroff, referring to the fact that the FCC is still without a fifth commissioner. President Joe Biden’s nominee for that spot, Gigi Sohn, is still up for votes in the Senate.

This photo was taken from the event.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event and REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022, 12 Noon ET — Will New FCC Rules Change Competition in Multi-Tenant Environments?

The FCC adopted rules on February 15 that give tenants in apartments and office buildings more transparency, competition and choice for broadband services. These final rules bar ISPs from entering into certain exclusive arrangements with landlords of multi-tenant buildings; require providers to disclose to tenants “in plain language” the existence of exclusive marketing arrangements; and clarify rules to allow for multiple service providers to use building wires to deliver service. What options does this leave for tenants, and owners, of multiple-dwelling units? Some believe that this will open up choice to millions of people in U.S. multi-tenant environments. Others believe that this is more of the same. We’ll hear from experts on all sides of this controversy.

Panelists for this Broadband Breakfast Live Online session:

  • Corey Johnson, Managing Partner, JBRI Holdings
  • Reg Weiser, Founder and CEO, Positron Access Solutions
  • Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel, Public Knowledge
  • Bryan Rader, President of Pavlov Media
  • Joe Plotkin, Director of Business Development, Stealth Communications
  • Drew Clark (presenter and host), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Jessica Rosenworcel Tackles Multiple Dwelling Broadband at INCOMPAS Summit

FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Shares Proposal to Promote Broadband Competition In Apartment Buildings

Housing, Public Interest Groups Oppose Multitenant Exclusivity Agreements

JBRI is on a mission to invest in communities for a more sustainable future by building smart cities with an integrated approach to real estate, clean energy, and digital.  Corey Johnson is a Managing Partner at JBRI Holdings where he oversees Smart City investing at the firm.

Reg Weiser is the founder and CEO of Positron Access Solutions, an innovative telecom equipment manufacturer that enables Gigabit services over telephone and coax wiring. He was a recipient of the Quebec Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Export Canada Award, and in 2005 was inducted in the Canadian Engineering Academy.  Reg’s passion is to help North America become a leader in high-speed broadband penetration.

Jenna Leventoff is a Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge, where she focuses on broadband deployment and adoption. Prior to joining Public Knowledge, Jenna served as a Senior Policy Analyst for the Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC) at the National Skills Coalition, where she led WDQC’s state policy advocacy and technical assistance efforts on state data system development and use. She also served as an Associate at Upturn, where she analyzed the civil rights implications of new technologies, and as Manager and Legal Counsel of the International Intellectual Property Institute, where she led the organization’s efforts to utilize intellectual property for international economic development. Jenna received her J.D, cum laude, and B.A from Case Western Reserve University.

Bryan Rader has more than two decades of experience in the multi-family broadband industry. He was the founder of MediaWorks, one of the most successful private cable operators in the southeast before its sale in 2006. He was also the founder of Bandwidth Consulting LLC in 2007, where he provided consulting services to MDU owners and service providers. In 2017, he joined Upstream Network (formerly Access Media 3) as its president. The industry’s largest private service, UpStream is based in Chicago. Rader, the recipient of the 2019 Broadband Communities Cornerstone Award for Industry Leadership, is an active supporter of autism research and awareness.

Joe Plotkin is Director of Business Development for Stealth Communications, a fiber ISP serving businesses in NYC. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Internet Society’s New York Chapter. Joe holds a Masters degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

Photo by BlueprintRF

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As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

Reporter Theadora Soter studied English at the University of Utah. She has been an Opinion Writer at the university’s Daily Utah Chronicle, and has a passion for storytelling. She has also worked as an intern at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Open Access

UTOPIA’s Projects Proceeding in California and Montana, CEO Says

Both the GSCA and Yellowstone Fiber are using UTOPIA’s techniques to provide open access broadband over fiber.

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Barbara Hayes (left) and Roger Timmerman (right) speaking at Broadband Communities Summit 2022 on May 4

HOUSTON, May 4, 2022 — UTOPIA Fiber’s open access model has found success in California, Montana, and Idaho as it continues to deploy across Utah, the company’s CEO said Wednesday.

“Right now, we are working with [Golden State Connect Authority] to identify various pilot areas for the project and have started preliminary engineering work to determine the initial project area,” Roger Timmerman said at the Broadband Communities Summit 2022.

During the press conference, Timmerman also pointed to UTOPIA’s expansion into Santa Clara, Utah, and its completion of its original 11 Utah cities by the end of 2022.

Timmerman was joined by partners Barbara Hayes of the Golden State Authority and Yellowstone Fiber CEO Greg Metzger as they delivered remarks on their joint ventures. The partnership will create the largest publicly owned fiber network in the US, and as it stands now, would span 38 of California’s 58 counties.

“California may be the world’s fifth-largest economy, but our state’s connectivity is decades behind,” Hayes said. “Investing in open access fiber will be transformative for California.”

Both Metzger and Hayes emphasized that their decision to partner with UTOPIA was largely informed by the company’s track record.

“We needed to have a partner who was successful and had done it before,” Metzger said. “For Montana, this is going to be a breath of fresh air.”

Yellowstone Fiber, formerly known as Bozeman Fiber, is a not-for-profit that will replicate UTOPIA’s open access model to provide broadband to the greater Bozeman region; it will own and operate the fiber but will rely on UTOPIA for assistance on the backend.

UTOPIA’s model of open access has long been a point of interest in the telecom industry. While some claim it will be a solution to the digital divide, other assert that it has merely created a “race to the bottom” where internet service providers are constantly pushed to undercut their completion. Timmerman and others have pushed back against the “race to the bottom” assertion, claiming that providers can find ways other than price to distinguish themselves from their competition, such as superior customer service. Additionally, they point to their recent track record as evidence that critics’ concerns that they can maintain a positive cash flow are unfounded.

Though UTOPIA, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast, now has positive revenue and has served as a model for open access projects around the country, critics still point toward its more than $300 million in outstanding debt it accrued in its early days, before Timmerman was at the helm.

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Fiber

Municipalities Generally Prefer Not to Own Broadband Builds, Conference Hears

Broadband leaders note cities prefer to partner than to own networks.

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Kenrick Gordon speaking remotely, with Deb Socia, Joshua Williams and Christopher Mitchell in person at Broadband Communities Summit

HOUSTON, May 3, 2022 – During a panel discussion Monday, broadband implementation leaders said local governments are often much more willing to help a partner organization establish a broadband network than they are to oversee construction themselves.

Speaking at Broadband Communities Magazine’s 2022 summit in Houston, Kenrick Gordon, director of the Maryland Office of Statewide Broadband, said “most local governments don’t really want to own a broadband network” and prefer to partner up and support the build.

Gordon spoke alongside Deb Socia, the CEO of the Enterprise Center, a non-profit infrastructure partner based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is known as the “gig city” for its city-owned gigabit fiber network.

When asked about what makes a bad partner organization for local governments in infrastructure projects, Socia, who formerly led internet-expansion organization Next Century Cities, said those who are not trusted by members of the community will not make effective broadband providers.

Many organizations have the potential to overpromise to community members, for example giving earlier timelines for broadband builds than is required, Socia said. Gordon added it is common that the expectation among some community members is that broadband projects can be built faster than other infrastructure.

Screenshot of Kenrick Gordon, Catharine Rice, Will Aycock, Deb Socia, Joshua Williams and Christopher Mitchell

Socia said trust can be garnered from the public by using a consistent script between all involved organizations, such as utilities and city government offices, so that questions can be answered in the same manner with accurate information.

She also outlined how Chattanooga was able to promote its broadband network on trusted and popular local radio stations, increasing familiarity with it in the community through on-air discussions.

Both Socia and Gordon, as well Catharine Rice, project director for the Coalition for Local Internet Choice, stated the importance of maintaining relationships and partnerships, with Rice emphasizing the need to frequently speak to state broadband offices as they generally are quite interested in working to be helpful and improve how they do their job.

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Fiber

Treasury Department Expects Majority of Capital Projects Funds Will Be Spent on Fiber

“We have put our thumb on the scale for fiber,” said Joseph Wender, director the Treasury Department’s broadband fund.

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Photo of Joe Wender from Broadband Communities

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2022 – The director of the Department of Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund for broadband expansion projects in response to the coronavirus pandemic said Wednesday that most dispensed funds will ultimately go towards fiber-optic broadband projects.

The Capital Projects Fund was established from the reserve of $10 billion dedicated to capital projects enabling work, education and health monitoring when President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act was passed last March.

Recently, questions have arisen surrounding whether Treasury’s 2026 deadline for ARPA funds to be disbursed provides enough time for all projects to receive their necessary federal funding.

Chip Pickering (top) and Joseph Wender

Fund director Joseph Wender spoke on how what type of technology he thinks broadband funds from the program will be directed towards, during a conversation with Chip Pickering, CEO of internet and competitive networks association INCOMPAS.

Wender stated that the Treasury is encouraging that fund broadband projects be built with fiber because it is a future-proof technology.

“We have put our thumb on the scale for fiber,” said Wender.

He also stated that working to implement broadband projects using project funds represents an opportunity for governors and state governments to score political wins.

Wender encouraged members of INCOMPAS listening to his conversation with Pickering to be engaged with their state legislatures in the disbursement of project funds and to make sure that not only the most powerful telecom companies have their interests represented by actions of the legislature.

He also confirmed that when entities apply for money from the Capital Projects Fund they do not need to specify the projects they plan to use the money for on their application, and that the Treasury is in constant communication with the Federal Communications Commission as well as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in order to coordinate data necessary to determine where funds should be disbursed.

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