Smart Buildings

Expanding the Competition for Internet Service in Multi-Tenant Buildings

Steve Carroll
Speed, availability, cost, reliability: These are the factors that most companies—and most people—get to consider as they choose their internet service provider (ISP).


In multi-tenant environments, however, it’s a much different story. Thirty-nine million Americans live in multi-family housing, 40% of industrial space is multi-tenant space and many businesses operate in multi-tenant buildings. In these situations, chances are good that tenants don’t have a say in selecting an internet service provider.

Instead, the building owner may be part of a revenue-sharing agreement with a provider, which prevents competing providers from offering service to tenants and allows the ISP to increase revenue share with the owner as tenants sign up for service. But a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule is set to change this.

New FCC Order Promotes Competition: What the Rule States

In February 2022, the FCC approved new rules that will encourage provider competition in multi-tenant buildings. These rules ban broadband providers from entering into revenue-sharing agreements with owners.

They also require broadband providers to disclose to tenants any exclusive marketing arrangements they have in place with owners.

The new FCC rule also prohibits sale and leaseback arrangements in multi-tenant buildings, which has previously allowed some companies to gain exclusive access to the cabling systems. According to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, since the 1990s, the FCC’s rules “allowed buildings and tenants to exercise choice about how to use wiring in the building when they are switching cable providers, but some companies circumvented these rules by selling wiring to the building and leasing it back on an exclusive basis. We put an end to that practice.”

Why Are These Changes for Multi-Tenant Buildings a Good Thing?

While the new FCC rule may not directly impact cabling and connectivity, it will have a powerful impact on the technology and communications industry. Opening up the field to allow competition paves the way for the types of innovative solutions we see today. People working together to advance technology is how the industry moves forward.

Case in point: In the early 1970s, a team at the Xerox Corporation’s Palo Alto Research Center created Ethernet to connect many of its computers across long distances: It was an alternative to computer communications that could give it a competitive advantage. Instead, the team decided to open up the technology to everyone. Now, nearly 50 years later, the world runs on Ethernet.

This change from the FCC also gives people living and working in multi-tenant buildings more choices, preventing monopolies from blocking their access to faster internet speeds, lower prices and better service.

The rule could also help bridge the digital divide, allowing tenants with traditionally poor connectivity the chance to search for a provider that may offer better connectivity. This level of freedom will help everyone gain access to high-quality service, which is a necessity as the internet becomes a utility—just as vital as water and electricity.

It may also create new technology opportunities. For example: Businesses that lease space in multi-tenant buildings may not have been able to invest in certain technology due to slow internet speeds or poor connectivity. When they can choose their plan, service and provider, these businesses may finally be able to invest in the solutions they need to improve communication and collaboration. People living in multi-tenant buildings may be able to access new remote learning and work-from-home opportunities for the first time.

An Additional FCC Order to Promote Competition

In January 2022, the FCC also decided to require ISPs to disclose price, speed and data allowances to consumers—including introductory rates and subsequent price hikes—as well as network management practices, like throttling.

This information will be provided to consumers before they sign an agreement so they can make an informed decision. The rules are set to go into effect in November 2022 and will add transparency to the ISP selection process.

Belden Is Dedicated to Innovation

The future belongs to the connected. We appreciate that the new FCC order promotes competition among ISPs while giving consumers more choices in how they connect.

Belden continues to stay on top of innovation by listening and responding to customer needs—and we applaud the efforts of other organizations that support the same approach.

If your multi-tenant building needs to add more capacity to its cabling infrastructure as a result of new competition entering the mix, then Belden is here to help. And as we continue to hear stories about the innovative actions being taken to boost competition and bridge the digital divide, we’ll share what we know.