FCC Proposed Bulk Internet Changes: What Comes Next

Scott Russell

March 13, 2024

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission announced a new proposal that could impact existing telecommunication contracts. The FCC has proposed similar changes in the past, with those proposals resulting in immaterial changes to the law. Many property owners and operators continue to move towards a bulk broadband model that benefits their residents. So, what comes next? 

Here’s what you can expect:

Anticipating the public release of proposed rules

The FCC is currently circulating a draft of proposed rules internally, with plans to release them to the public in the coming days. Once published, these rules will undergo a period of public comment, during which interested parties can weigh in on their potential impact. This comment period typically lasts for several months, providing ample opportunity for stakeholders to voice their concerns and perspectives.

Industry experts anticipate a flurry of comments and pushback from various quarters, including service providers, multi-tenant property owners, and advocacy groups. Organizations like the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) are expected to play pivotal roles in shaping the discourse around these proposed rules.


Opportunity for public comment period

During the comment period, stakeholders will have the chance to address misconceptions and offer insights into the implications of bulk billing arrangements. Commenters will also have the opportunity to highlight the potential benefits of bulk services, such as access to better service packages and higher speeds at reduced costs.

The FCC, however, has not provided clarity on how it intends to mitigate the impact on the millions of units currently benefiting from bulk services across various housing types, including conventional, student, low-income, and senior living facilities. As comments pour in from ISPs, resident advocacy groups, landlords, and other stakeholders, the FCC will need to navigate a sea of perspectives and interests.

At the end of the comment period, which may be extended due to the anticipated volume of comments, the FCC will review the feedback and redraft the proposed rules accordingly. This iterative process can take weeks to months as the FCC considers comments that resonate and potentially revises the rules in response.

Read how the industry’s top associations are responding to the FCC proposed changes. 


Understanding potential legal challenges

While minor changes are often expected in regulatory processes, significant alterations could prompt legal challenges from industry players. Should material changes occur, it’s likely that larger industry players will swiftly file lawsuits to delay or prevent the implementation of the rules.

Legal battles over FCC regulations are not uncommon, and they can lead to stays on the implementation of new rules while the courts assess their legality. This process can stretch on for months or even years, particularly if the case makes its way to the Supreme Court.

Recent Supreme Court decisions suggest that the FCC’s authority over contractual bulk arrangements could be called into question, potentially rendering any regulatory overreach void without congressional action. The ultimate resolution of these proposed rules may hinge on judicial interpretation and the broader legislative landscape.

Onboard’s focus remains the same

While the FCC’s proposed rules on bulk billing arrangements mark the beginning of a complex regulatory journey, with outcomes likely to be shaped by a combination of regulatory, legal, and legislative factors, Onboard’s focus has, since our inception, been on the resident experience. As a trusted third-party partner committed to ensuring residents receive the best possible service, we bridge the Grand Canyon-sized gap between ISPs and rental property owners/managers to address the connectivity needs of residents. Onboard is uniquely positioned to address the concerns that the FCC (or any local, state, or federal regulator) has around bulk transparency and resident choice by identifying and understanding the nuanced needs of each resident, and then supporting those residents at every stage.

We firmly believe that every resident requires a strong, reliable internet connection. Bulk billing arrangements can deliver this connectivity at scale affordably and efficiently, while laying the foundation for technology needs to come. Onboard serves as a trusted third-party who can partner with ISPs and owner/operators to manage and support this delivery, prioritizing the needs of residents at all stages of the process. 

About the Author

Scott Russell

Former VP of business development and ancillary services at Cottonwood Residential. MDU/telecom since 2006 at Renters Legal Liability and CCI Network Services. Currently serves as CEO & Cofounder at Onboard.