FCC gives break to office buildings

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Small businesses and apartment tenants may get more choices for their telephone service under modest steps taken by regulators Thursday.

The Federal Communications Commission voted to bar phone companies from getting exclusive rights to serve office buildings with multiple businesses, and said it would weigh expanding those rules to residential apartment buildings.

But, careful not to trigger charges of overstepping its jurisdiction, the FCC shied away from placing any mandates on landlords themselves.

The commission’s rules also block telephone companies from negotiating with commercial building owners for exclusive access to premises where they can set up equipment. Phone companies that control these areas in apartment complexes, campuses and office buildings would have to give other carriers and cable companies access, under the agency’s action.

"Access to the ‘last 100 feet’ is one of the last remaining barriers to complete end-to-end competition for telecommunications services," said FCC Chairman William Kennard.

About a third of all Americans live in some type of multiunit complex, according to industry experts.

In some areas, the FCC said it would look to the voluntary commitments offered by the real estate industry to foster more choice for tenants.

But the agency also said it would weigh further measures, such as prohibiting telecommunications companies from getting exclusive marketing agreements or bonuses from landlords.

Representatives of Real Access Alliance, a coalition of real estate industry associations that represent 1 million members nationwide, said they believe consumer demand will dictate how landlords provide their telecommunications services.

But new competitors whose own networks — fiber optic lines, fixed wireless and other services — reach only to the door of an apartment building say they need federal assistance in getting access to the last few feet to reach the consumer.

"We want to get access to the building, and we want to justly compensate anybody that provides such access," said Jonathan Askin, vice president at the Association for Local Telecommunications Services, which represents competing telecom companies.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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