Realtors Support FCC Telecom Decision

June 14, 2002
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WASHINGTON, DC—The Federal Communications Commission hasn’t changed its collective mind.

Nor is there any sign that the agency will do so anytime soon.

Last October, the FCC took action prohibiting an owner of a multi-tenant residential or commercial building from signing an exclusive agreement with a single firm to provide telecommunication services for the entire structure. The agency said it took that stand in order to promote competition in the nation’s telecom marketplace.

“Facilities-based competition in multi-unit buildings is crucial to promoting consumer choice and advancing all the economic benefits of competition,” said FCC Chairman William Kennard.

A recent check with agency spokesperson Meribeth McCarrick confirmed that the FCC hasn’t altered its position since the October ruling.

That stance has pleased a few in the telecom sector, but many more in the real estate industry — which was concerned that the agency would legislate a set of “forced access” regulations.

Even Winstar Communications Inc., a leading broadband services company that helped lead the fight for forced access, praised the FCC ruling. Winstar called the agency’s action a major step in guaranteeing timely access to multi-tenant buildings

“The FCC has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to ensure that millions of citizens who live and work in multi-tenant buildings have the same communications choices and services as other Americans,” said Winstar Chairman and CEO William Rouhana Jr.

The Real Access Alliance (RAA), a nonprofit organization of real estate trade groups with nearly one million members, fought the calls made by telecom companies that wanted extensive regulations governing how building owners could provide access for services.

In helping to persuade the FCC to take the stance it did, Kennard said the RAA voluntarily agreed to increase access to buildings and to best practices in accelerating time for negotiations with new entrants.

The National Association of Realtors; the Building Owners and Managers Association, International; the Real Estate Roundtable; and the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts are four of the 11 RAA members.

“It appears the FCC action consists of constructive, reasonable steps to ensure tenants receive the best possible access to competitive telecom services,” said Roger Platt, Alliance spokesman.

In a nutshell, the FCC action did the following:

  • Prohibited exclusive arrangements between service providers and building owners.
  • Gave providers access to utility rights-of-way in and on top of buildings; and
  • Adopted a series of other steps, all of which were designed to provide greater access to multi-tenant buildings.

In May, RAA reported it developed a model license agreement that covered the terms and conditions for telecom access to multi-tenant buildings. Platt said the effort took eight months, was done voluntarily and drew over a thousand comments from its members.

“We look forward with great interest to see whether this model agreement successfully facilitates negotiations for building access,” said James Schlichting, FCC Deputy Chief of the Wireless Telecom Bureau, “and thereby competitive choices in local telecommunications services for tenants in multi-tenant environments.”

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