New Internet Rules Positive for Apartment Owners

In a remarkable turnaround from only a year or so ago, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed rules that will stop ISPs from blocking or slowing down Internet content at will, or accepting payments for sending data more quickly.

Washington, D.C.—In a remarkable turnaround from only a year or so ago, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed rules that will stop ISPs from blocking or slowing down Internet content at will, or accepting payments for sending data more quickly—the chairman made a blow for net neutrality, in other words. The agency is expected to adopt the proposal, and while there might be challenges in Congress or the courts, the move puts net neutrality on a firmer footing going forward.

Briefly, the new rules would allow the FCC to regulate the Internet as a utility, rather than as an “information service system,” as it’s been considered over the last decade or so. The agency has much broader authority in the first case and would thus be able to enforce net neutrality. Apparently public sentiment has been so strongly in favor of net neutrality that even Wheeler, a former telecom executive, has come around to it.

“Generally speaking, the events this week are positive because they keep us moving forward towards some sort of resolution,” National Apartment Association SVP, government affairs Gregory S. Brown told MHN. “As to the specific proposal, once that is released in detail we will review it with our members for impacts, positive or negative.”

Another proposal of Wheeler’s is perhaps of more direct concern to apartment property owners and their tenants. Namely, he’s proposing that the FCC nullify laws barring cities and towns from building their own broadband networks. Such restrictions have been enacted, generally at the behest of the cable industry, in at least 19 states.

Such laws in effect restrict broadband service competition, thus offering apartment owners and their tenants fewer choices–or often no choice–about Internet service to their buildings. As the broadband connectivity has become an increasingly important part of life, it’s also become an essential amenity in multifamily properties, and competition among service providers would theoretically represent lower costs for landlords and residents.