Tag Archives: mdu

FCC’s San Francisco broadband preemption appealed

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

San Francisco is taking the Federal Communications Commission to court. Again. On Monday, the City and County of San Francisco filed a challenge to the FCC’s preemption of its broadband access ordinance with the ninth circuit federal appeals court, also based in San Francisco.

The ordinance requires building owners to allow tenants to buy broadband service from the provider of their choice. Providers are able, under the ordinance, to use any available wiring inside the building that’s owned by the landlord to deliver such service. The FCC ruled earlier this month that San Francisco can’t tell an ISP that’s already using a given wire to deliver service that it has to share it with another ISP. San Francisco’s initial response amounted to duh.

But the ordinance is still under threat, because the FCC continues it’s look into the matter, and could preempt the whole thing. So filing a federal court challenge could be one way for San Francisco to head off any further FCC action.

At this point, San Francisco isn’t saying why it thinks the FCC is out of bounds, except to say it’s aggrieved and to make the ritual claim that the ruling is “arbitrary and capricious”…

San Francisco was party to and actively participated in the underlying proceeding before the FCC that led to the Order, and is aggrieved by the Declaratory Ruling part of Order within the meaning of [federal law].

San Francisco seeks review of the Declaratory Ruling part of the Order because it: (i) was issued in excess of the FCC’s statutory authority; (ii) is arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion; and (iii) is otherwise contrary to law, including the United States Constitution.

San Francisco respectfully requests that this Court hold unlawful, vacate, enjoin and set aside the Declaratory Ruling part of the Order, and grant such other relief as this Court may deem just and proper.

Another ninth circuit case that San Francisco and a long list of other cities and counties are pursuing is the challenge to last year’s preemption of local pole ownership and public right of way control by the FCC. Yesterday, the FCC ask for month’s delay in the case, which was summarily rejected by the ninth circuit. It’ll have to submit it’s reply to the case against it next month.

FCC republicans chase San Francisco “bogeyman”

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Bay to breakers

San Francisco’s open access law that allows any Internet service provider to use landlord-owned wiring inside a building to reach tenants might not be so preempted by Wednesday’s Federal Communications Commission decision. And the FCC’s republican majority is acting more like hired gun lawyers advocating for monopoly-model incumbents than the disinterested expert regulators they’re supposed to be.

Jon Brodkin breaks down the back and forth in a good article in Ars Technica. The ruling formally adopted by republican commissions says that San Francisco can’t require one ISP to share wires it’s already using with another ISP. San Francisco’s response amounted to we don’t require that, so what are you all worked up about? FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a democrat, voted against the ruling and blasted her colleagues for running scaredf making up rules on the fly…

Our preemption of this municipal ordinance is stunningly weak. We somehow claim we have unfettered authority when it comes to broadband in buildings but disown our general authority over the same in our net neutrality proceeding, where we pronounced broadband beyond the reach of this agency. So this ruling borrows from old cable signal leakage policies to suggest some new theory of preemption is appropriate. This doesn’t add up…

It is not clear this agency even understands the San Francisco law it seeks to preempt. The law prohibits building owners from interfering with the right of tenants to exercise choice when it comes to communications…the FCC contorts this into a non-existent bogeyman, suggesting that the ordinance compels sharing of wiring that is already in use. This is simply not true…Why are we preempting an imaginary possibility in a city ordinance in San Francisco?

The Trump administration’s FCC bases its rollbacks and preemptions on tortured, case by case reasoning that starts with the result desired by the likes of AT&T and Comcast – repealing net neutrality, preempting local ownership of streetlight poles – and proceeds to justify it on the basis of nonsensical, one-off legal theories – Internet address lookup as an information service, use of the public right of way as a quitclaim deed – that a corporate lawyer would only use as a last resort.

Both FCC chair Ajit Pai and commissioner Brendan Carr represented big telecoms companies in their past legal careers, and they act like they still do. Federal appeals courts are reviewing claims that their net neutrality and pole preemption decisions are “arbitrary and capricious”. Their San Francisco ruling belongs on that list.

FCC’s preemption of San Francisco broadband ordinance gets slapped by U.S. house of representatives

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

John wayne slap

Democrats in the U.S. house of representatives want to block plans to preempt San Francisco’s broadband access ordinance. Last week, the house voted more or less on party lines to prevent the Federal Communications Commission from implementing new rules that would overturn any local regulations that require landlords to give competitive Internet service providers access to wiring inside their buildings.

The language was inserted by California house member Katie Porter (D – Orange) into an appropriations bill. It says…

None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used by the Federal Communications Commission to finalize, implement, administer, or enforce the draft Declaratory Ruling in Federal Communications Commission [draft ruling regarding multiple tenant environments], released June 19, 2019, or ruling in [the proceeding challenging San Francisco’s ordinance].

According to an article by Jon Brodkin in Ars Technica, Porter’s concern is competition…

Porter defended the San Francisco ordinance, telling Ars, “The communications industry is in dire need of more competition. San Francisco’s Article 52 has been incredibly effective in promoting broadband competition—giving residents the benefit of competition and choice in the market, increasing their service quality while decreasing their monthly bills.”

Broadband competition is also an issue in Orange County, where “multiple tenant environments” (MTEs) – apartments, condos and office buildings – are thick on the ground. That’s a market that Google Fiber is pursuing in Porter’s district, and competitive broadband, in the form of what appears to be a quasi-municipal project, is also on the table in Fullerton.

Porter’s amendment will likely have only symbolic value. The appropriations bill now goes to the U.S. senate, where republicans will almost certainly cut it out, along with all the other policy pronouncements tacked on to the house-approved version. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the specific San Francisco preemption and on beginning the process of writing its own general regulations for MTE broadband next week.

FCC will preempt San Francisco apartment broadband access ordinance, and that’s just for starters

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to preempt part of a San Francisco ordinance that requires landlords to open up access to existing wiring within a building, and allows any Internet service provider to use it to deliver service to tenants. In a draft ruling released yesterday, the FCC proposes to block any requirement that forces a landlord to share wiring it owns that’s already in use. It would apply to both residential buildings, such as apartments or condos, and office buildings – “multiple tenant environments” (MTEs), as the FCC puts it.

Just in case you were worried that the FCC will stomp all over any local effort to improve access to broadband service, the draft also declares that it does not “preempt state and local efforts to promote facilities-based broadband deployment and competition”.

Well, not really.

In language that would do George Orwell proud, the FCC’s draft says it’ll only preempt local initiatives that “contravene federal law and policy”. Since the FCC reckons that it’s in charge of making federal telecoms policy, it’s actually saying if we don’t like it, we’ll preempt it.

The draft is clear that the FCC doesn’t think the City and County of San Francisco should have any say about who can use whom’s facilities, but for now the preemption would be limited to rules about wires are in use. If a customer in San Francisco, say, cancels broadband service from Comcast but keeps video service, then a competitive ISP wouldn’t also be able to use the wiring that serves the apartment. On the other hand, if the customer cancels all services and there’s unused coax between the apartment and a telecoms closet, then the landlord is still obligated to lease it to a competitive ISP of the tenant’s choice. For now.

San Francisco’s ordinance requires landlords to allow tenants to buy broadband service from any ISP, via existing wiring if that’s the most desirable way. ISPs have to pay “just and reasonable compensation” for the use of those facilities, and follow particular procedures for giving notice to landlords, but at the end of the day they can come in.

A challenge to that ordinance was filed, but initially rejected by the FCC because the legal basis was weird. Or rather, not weird enough for the FCC’s republican majority, which now plans to stretch the regulation cited in that case – the over the air reception device (OTARD) rule – way past the breaking point in regards to another case involving cell sites.

The San Francisco preemption and the pledge to only preempt things it doesn’t like are just a couple of items in a long to do list in yesterday’s draft. The FCC also plans to take a broad look at the relationship between telcos, cable companies and independent ISPs, landlords and tenants. Assuming commissioners vote to approve it at their meeting next month – which is a pretty safe bet – they’ll ask for public comments what else they might do to “accelerate the deployment of next-generation networks and services within MTEs” and on “the impact that revenue sharing agreements between building owners and broadband providers, exclusivity agreements regarding rooftop facilities, and exclusive wiring arrangements have on broadband competition and deployment”.

Google Fiber picks MDU cherries in Orange County

by Steve Blum • , ,

Google Fiber is figuring out how to play small ball and still get thousands of fiber to the home subscribers. In its latest blog post, Google tells how it’s expanding its fiber footprint – actually, making lots of tiny paw prints – in the southern California multi-dwelling unit market…

The Village is the latest apartment community in Orange County with access to our super fast Internet + TV. Additionally, we announced on Thursday that sign ups are now open for residents of The Park at Irvine Spectrum. More than 1,400 residents there will have Fiber service available to them in early 2018.

Since teaming up with Irvine Company last year, we’ve been hard at work to bring Fiber to a number of residential and commercial properties in Orange County. Today, thousands of people in Orange County can sign up for Google Fiber.

It’s not clear whether Orange County is an exception to Google’s no more television service decision. My guess is that Google lit up The Village before it announced that business decision last month.

Either way, going after apartment and condo dwellers in upscale Orange County should be a slam dunk for Google. It can work with building owners to get properties wired up, and the region has a considerable amount of fiber in the ground. It’s a standard, if not universal, construction practice to install fiber in new MDUs in southern California, and elsewhere. The cost of building a lateral connection from a nearby fiber route into a building is typically in the low tens of thousands of dollars range – $10,000 to $20,000 is common, $30,000 would be high, although not unheard of. Even if everything else combined to create a total bill of $100,000 to $200,000, in a 1,000 unit complex, Google’s out of pocket cost still comes out to something like one to two hundred dollars per home “passed”.

Don’t take those numbers to the bank – it’s completely back of the envelope guestimating – but it shows that there’s still some running room for the actual fiber version of Google Fiber (as opposed to its wireless fallbacks), while staying within the bounds of a shrinking capital budget for network expansion.

San Francisco broadband law gains independent ISP access to hundreds of buildings

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

A San Francisco municipal ordinance that gives tenants of multi-unit buildings the right to get broadband service from any qualified provider of their choosing has had a dramatic impact on the market, at least according to CALTEL, a lobbying group for independent telecoms companies in California. In comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission, CALTEL says San Francisco’s ordinance has opened doors for Sonic.net, California’s largest independent ISP…

Sonic now reports that the ordinance has been instrumental in assisting it to gain access to approximately 300 multi-tenant buildings in San Francisco. These facts also confirm San Francisco’s determination that the Commission’s “efforts…to enhance competition among providers of communications services in [multiple tenant environments] have not been successful,” and that it needed to “complement the Commission’s actions by prohibiting property owners from denying persons living or working in MTEs in San Francisco their right to choose a communications provider.

The FCC has two multiple tenant environment proceedings underway. One involves a direct challenge to the San Francisco ordinance and the other is a general enquiry into how, or even if, the FCC should regulate access to buildings and whether it should allow the sort of exclusive deals landlords make with broadband providers that the City and County of San Francisco wants to outlaw. It’s more than just apartment and office buildings. The FCC’s enquiry also includes “gated communities, mobile home parks, garden apartments, and other centrally managed residential real estate developments”, as well as home owner associations.

CALTEL argues that one-size-fits-all federal regulation is the wrong approach, because circumstances vary widely from state to state, and city to city. San Francisco’s desperately tight housing market combined with local rent control creates perverse incentives for landlords: lousy broadband service is one way to churn out existing tenants and bring in new ones who can be charged significantly higher rents.

G.fast isn’t so gee whiz compared to fiber, Verizon exec says

by Steve Blum • , , ,

G.fast technology, which in theory allows telcos to push gigabit speeds over existing copper wire, isn’t a good substitute for fiber upgrades, according to Verizon’s director of network planning. Vincent O’Byrne, quoted in an article by Sean Buckley in FierceTelecom, said that even in multi-tenant office buildings or apartments, it’s more cost effective to install fiber all the way to the customer, than it is to bring fiber in or near a building and then use G.fast to close the gap…

“It’s a bit more expensive to put the single family unit fiber connections out there, but we have the same kind of service as the rest of the network,” O’Byrne said. “We also found that the trouble report rate is less on the fiber all the way to the living unit.”

“At Verizon we were finding the trouble reports on the copper were two to three times more than when we had fiber to the living unit,” O’Byrne said. “For a long time, the copper plant in the Verizon network was not as good as it was in some locations so if we went to G.fast it would be low volume and we would have the same issues five years down the road.”

Of course, if Verizon maintained its copper plant, instead of letting it rot on the poles and then selling it off, as it did in California, some of these issues might not have come up. But it’s true that copper circuits carrying G.fast traffic need to be relatively pristine in order to work over any real distance. If a lot of work is needed, there’s not much of a cost difference between refurbishing copper and replacing it with fiber.

Rapid and constant changes in technology are also a problem. O’Byrne said that as equipment hits end-of-life, it can’t always be replaced with compatible gear, and the mix of different generations of technology can be costly to maintain and difficult to support.

FCC’s idea of open access to broadband service might not be so open

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

It’s hard to tell where the Federal Communications Commission is going with a new enquiry into open (or not) access rules for broadband, television and telephone service providers in apartments, condos, commercial buildings and other multiple tenant environments. Assuming commissioners vote to begin it – a safe bet – all they’d be doing immediately is asking for comments from anyone with an opinion on the subject. It’s not being done out of idle curiosity, though.

The draft of the notice that would open the enquiry says the grand goal is "to facilitate greater consumer choice and to enhance broadband deployment". But choice is in the eye of the chooser. It’s one thing to prohibit a cable company from signing an exclusive deal with a landlord that prevents tenants from installing satellite dishes, but quite another to say that members of a condo association can’t pool their market power and make a bulk buy of television or broadband service.

The current FCC majority is not a populist one. One of its earliest decisions was to kill an initiative begun during the Obama administration to open up the set top box market. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has gone on rants about the evils of municipal broadband and urged congress to subsidise big incumbents rather than independent competitors. It’s a world view that’s consistent with the Orwellian message pushed by telco and cable lobbyists that anything that threatens their monopolies will doom consumer choice and end broadband deployment.

It’s also clear from the draft that the FCC doesn’t think highly of local efforts, such as in San Francisco, to require open access for Internet service providers to apartments and condos – the first bullet point in the half page "fact sheet" that accompanied the notice refers to the imposition of "overly burdensome infrastructure access requirements onto private companies" by state and local governments.

Take nothing for granted.

Google Fiber goes boringly conventional in Seattle

by Steve Blum • , ,

At first it tried to disrupt the broadband industry in the U.S. with full scale fiber to the home deployments, but the financial realities of a capital intensive business with a long term return on investment horizon has forced Google Fiber into a traditional small ISP business model. Its latest move – into a high rent Seattle high rise – is a low risk venture. According to a blog post by its Webpass subsidiary

Today, we announced that Webpass is ready to move into the Emerald City, one Ethernet-wired building at a time.

Webpass provides blazing-fast Internet (up to a gigabit per second!) to residential and business customers, starting with Fifteen Twenty-One Second Avenue, a 40-story luxury tower located above Pike Place Market. We expect to add many more buildings throughout the city, and, starting today, residents of other apartment and condo buildings can reach out to express interest in bringing Webpass to their home.

The only news here is that Google is involved – downtown Seattle already has a thriving market multi-dwelling unit (MDU) gigabit service.

Two questions that the brief announcement doesn’t answer are how is it getting enough bandwidth into the building and what is the business arrangement with the landlord?

Media reports about the Seattle initiative assume that, consistent with Webpass’ market positioning (but not its invariable practice), the building will be fed wirelessly. That seems unlikely: reliably delivering a gigabit (for $60 per month) to dozens of units in a dense urban environment via a radio link is difficult, while leasing dark fiber from the City of Seattle or other providers is easy. I don’t know how they’re doing it, but I’m not making any assumptions either.

Typically, MDU deals between Internet service providers and landlords involve some level of exclusivity, often based on access to the Ethernet or other wiring inside. It’s becoming a controversial practice. The Federal Communications Commission is about to look into it, and Webpass was on the other side of it in San Francisco. It would ironic if Google’s broadband business model goes from being the disrupter to being disrupted.

FCC begins Act II of apartment, condo broadband access drama

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

The rules that govern how video, voice and Internet services are delivered to people who live in what the Federal Communications Commission calls multiple tenant environments (MTEs) are complicated. It’s a universe that includes apartments and condominiums (multiple dwelling units/MDUs), and commercial real estate, such as shopping malls or office buildings. Later this month, the FCC will consider, and likely approve, the start of a broad enquiry that could result in an update and overhaul of those regulations.

The FCC tends to prohibit exclusive deals between property owners and service providers. Tenants, including renters and those with a common ownership interest in, say, a condo or homeowners association (HOA), usually have a right to buy service from anyone, but access to a property or the wiring inside it can be restricted, or even blocked altogether. An HOA can enter into a bulk billing agreement and deliver services, at one level or another and of one kind or another, to every home, but residents are still free to buy additional service from other providers. A landlord can cut a deal with an ISP and make it difficult or impossible for a competitor to wire a building, but can’t prevent tenants from accessing wireless service.

It’s further complicated by the fact that broadband, telephone and television service have separate regulatory regimes and, consequently, different MTE access rules. Broadband, in particular, is in a grey area, since its status – common carrier or not? – is far from settled. The City and County of San Francisco stepped in and established its own open access rules for broadband service in apartments and condos, which were promptly challenged at the FCC. The initial challenge was rejected, but only because of its oddly twisted logic. The core issues of open access to services and the role of local governments in enforcing it were not addressed.

That’s about to change.