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

3 July 2019 by Steve Blum
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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.