Industry Responses to FCC Proposed Bulk Internet Billing Changes

Scott Russell

March 12, 2024

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission announced a new proposal that could impact broadband bulk billing arrangements. The FCC has proposed similar changes in the past, but such proposals resulted in immaterial changes in the law. Many multifamily leaders and organizations are pushing back against the proposed changes. 

In addition to a joint press release by the National Apartment Association and the National Multifamily Housing Council, a broad coalition of housing providers and lenders released a statement last week calling on the Biden Adminstration to reconsider the proposed changes and preserve broadband bulk billing. These industry-leading organizations counter the proposed changes by highlighting:

Bulk billing arrangements are pro-consumer and pro-renter

“This misguided proposal… purportedly lays the groundwork for a rulemaking process at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aimed at boosting competition. Yet, it would actually do the opposite. Bulk billing arrangements are a way to provide residents with a bundled price for broadband services, which is often cheaper, better, faster and more reliable than apartment residents would typically be able to secure in the open market.”

The coalition of associations highlight how material changes to existing bulk contracts would inevitably lead to higher retail costs, lower service quality, and diminished support and capabilities, in turn negatively affecting apartment residents. Through agreements with broadband providers, rental housing providers can use their market knowledge and leverage to negotiate bulk rates that are typically better than what can be found in the surrounding community. The Community Associations Institute agrees, releasing a statement last week that reads: “These arrangements have often allowed community associations to negotiate affordable rates for residents, ensuring widespread access to essential communication services. Banning bulk billing could inadvertently limit options and increase costs for residents, particularly in communities where alternative providers may be limited.”

Banning bulk billing will disproportionally affect those who struggle the most to get connected

“Banning bulk internet agreements will harm residents, and disincentivize investment in broadband service, especially in rural areas as well as low-income, smaller, and more-affordable rental communities who struggle the most to get connected.”

These industry leaders highlight the shortage of internet providers capable of offering comparable services to millions of multi-dwelling units due to high capital costs, deliverability limitations, and other challenges. Due to these challenges, the number of providers that could reasonably serve millions of units to drive competition may be scarce. NAA and NMHC’s joint release emphasizes this point as well: “[Banning bulk billing arrangements] runs in direct opposition to the historic federal investments and resources being poured into communities of all types to bridge the digital divide, by eliminating a cost effective, quick and reliable solution to improve broadband access and adoption.”

Bulk technology infrastructure supports critical property operations

“Bulk billing arrangements are pro-consumer and pro-renter and help support property operations like climate resilience and our shared, longterm goals of improving housing affordability.

Many industry leaders take note of how bulk arrangements enable important essential items such as comprehensive energy monitoring and consumption reduction, property-wide connectivity for operational efficiencies, and other current or future technologies that require WiFi connectivity married with custom site-level experiences. They can play a pivotal role in the development and deployment of contemporary property infrastructure, the operation of buildings, and enhancing the resident experience. And by adopting bulk internet solutions, properties have the opportunity to significantly enhance the delivery and performance of a variety of services while reducing costs, including smart home technology, access controls, EV charging, and more.

You can read the coalition’s full response here. Coalition members include some of the industry’s leading organizations:

CCIM Institute Council for Affordable and Rural Housing

Institute of Real Estate Management

Manufactured Housing Institute

Mortgage Bankers Association

National Apartment Association

National Association of Home Builders

National Association of REALTORS®

National Leased Housing Association

National Multifamily Housing Council

Curious about what comes next? Read insights from Onboard’s CEO Scott Russell and what you can expect.

Since its inception, Onboard’s focus has 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. Learn how.

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.