Normally I write about the rural perspective of broadband but recently someone sent me an interesting article from Susan Crawford on the plight of apartment dwellers who are stuck when their landlords make decisions about their broadband access without their input.
Here’s what she says…
Water and heat are regulated utilities. But when it comes to Internet access, people in apartments (called Multiple Dwelling Units, or MDUs) often have the worst of both worlds: all the limitations of a utility framework — no competition, no choices — with zero protections for consumers. That means unconstrained pricing. Network operators like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and AT&T, in cahoots with developers and landlords, routinely use a breathtaking array of kickbacks, lawyerly games of Twister, blunt threats, and downright illegal activities to lock up buildings in exclusive arrangements.
For people in apartments, the “free market” is anything but.
This astounding, enormous, decentralized payola scheme affects millions of American lives. And these shenanigans will only stop when cities and national leaders require that every building have neutral fiber/wireless facilities that make it easy for residents to switch services when they want to. We’ve got to take landlords out of the equation — all they’re doing is looking for payments and deals (understandably: they’re addicted to the revenue stream they’ve been getting), and the giant telecom providers in our country are more than happy to pay up. The market is stuck. Residents have little idea these deals are happening. The current way of doing business is great for landlords and ISPs but destructive in every other way.
The story is familiar – albeit not exactly the same – as some folks in rural areas where local residents are left out of the discussion of access. It seems like maybe there’s a solution that will help address the issue in either place.
For the apartments the game is to get exclusive or near exclusive access to tenants. In rural areas I think the equivalent is getting access to funding.