back to article Hate it when your apartment block is locked to Comcast etc? Small ISPs fight back

A group of small ISPs is asking America's broadband watchdog to ban exclusivity deals that lock apartment buildings to a single broadband provider. Incompas, a Washington DC advocacy group for ISPs and telcos, told the FCC in a filing [PDF] that it should end the practice of landlords and building owners making deals with a …

  1. ma1010 Silver badge

    Ha Ha Ha Ha

    And they think that slut of the big telecom providers, Ajit Pai, would do ANYTHING not approved by the likes of Comcast, etc? Talk about spitting into the wind...

    Don't get me wrong: I think this is a GREAT idea. But as long as Pai occupies the FCC, it has as much chance of adoption as we do of seeing a stripper headlining at a Baptist preachers' convention.

  2. Number6

    They should have it on the same basis that BT provides services to smaller ISPs, where there's a wholesale arm that maintains the equipment and allows BT Retail and other ISPs access on comparable terms. Most cable companies are a de facto monopoly, or a duopoly with the local telco so competition is somewhat limited unless steps are taken to encourage that.

    So a deal to allow Comcast to put in and run the cabling is fine, but other ISPs should be allowed to tout for the endpoint business without having to pay punitive access charges.

    1. Fatman Silver badge

      RE: put in and run the cabling

      <quote>So a deal to allow Comcast to put in and run the cabling is fine, but other ISPs should be allowed to tout for the endpoint business without having to pay punitive access charges.</quote>

      Except for one thing, if we are speaking of co-ax runs, how do two (or more) ISPs co-exist on the same cable while using COTS equipment? Cable modems use specific frequencies to send data

  3. whoseyourdaddy

    Isn't it cheaper to do the last mile wireless...

    compared to the risk and labor costs of running wires to the home?

    It's one thing if the multi-family building is unoccupied. But, occupied?

    (Flashbacks to waiting for Fios to bury fiber to the box already on the building, month after month..)

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Isn't it cheaper to do the last mile wireless...

      compared to the risk and labor costs of running wires to the home?

      Yes..and you get what you pay for. Wireless is great for when you need mobility and in remote areas where the economics of a fixed service are prohibitive. But wireless is always going to be second-best to a wired solution.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      @ hoosierdaddy

      No its a dumb idea to do the last mile wireless for most of the US.

      Considering the amount broadband data... it would be disastrous colossal mistake.

    3. Number6

      Isn't it cheaper to do the last mile wireless...

      Yes, if you're the only one using it. Otherwise it's shared bandwidth with everyone else, whereas wired bandwidth is, to a first approximation, all yours (assuming your ISP has properly sized the pipes).

      If you've got 100Mbit/s then you lose some of that because radio is half-duplex compared to the full-duplex of a wired system that can (in theory) stream 100MBit to you while taking the return traffic. Radio has to stop sending so you can send the acknowledgements. Then there's the overhead needed for each radio burst so the RX is in sync with the TX before the real data starts. Then there's all the neighbours also wanting some of that airtime.

      Point to point wireless is possible, but costs a lot more and may exceed the cost of installing a wired channel.

    4. GBE

      Re: Only the best will do

      "Isn't it cheaper to do the last mile wireless..."

      Been there, done that, it sucked. For several years I used municipal "broadband" where the "last mile" was wireless. It was actually more like the "last couple hundred yards" and it was still awful. In the daytime, throughput maxed out at around 2Mbps. In the evening it dropped so close to zero as to be useless.

      I switched to Comcast. The price was 3X, but at least I get consistent, reliable 20Mbps.

      ---- You know you suck when your ex-customers are happy with Comcast ----

  4. hellwig Silver badge

    Consumer Choice will hurt consumers and small business

    Allowing consumers to choose between various carriers, including smaller local ISPs, will surely only hurt consumers and smaller, local ISPs.

    Only large companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon understand how truly difficult it is to run an ISP, and local, smaller ISPs just haven't realized that yet.

    As such, if a consumer is given a choice, and chooses wronga small local ISP, that ISP will now struggle to provide service. The small ISP does not have the FCC chairman in their pocketbusiness know-how nor the monopolistic advantagecustomer base to bend content providers to their willnegotiate beneficial financial arrangements.

    As such, the smallers ISPs will only end up going out of business in the end, and then their customers will be hurt because they won't have any internet service.

    Seriously though, my old apartment locked us in with "Suite Solutions", which basically just resold Dish Network and AT&T at not broadband speeds(10d/1u). Although I'm sure they'd reclassify it as broadband with the FCC's new regulations. I asked if I could use my own modem and they said no, forced me to rent one, and then, guess what, the f*cking tech shows up with the EXACT SAME model I already owned.

    It was so bad, I was actually HAPPY when the complex switched to Xfinity.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As a building owner...

    As the owner of a multi-tenant building, I have quite a bit vested (and invested) in making sure that my tenants get what they want and need so that they stay around and I don't have any open units.

    At the same time, I don't need every Tom, Dick, and Harry punching holes through my walls, perforating the firestops, running CMR wire through air plenums to get to inside rooms, etc. There has to be a compromise - and a way for me as building owner to exclude the "bad actors" - the wannabe ISPs that don't have any respect for my property or that of their competitors (or even Liability Insurance)

    I've been on both sides of this, as I also used to own an ISP - and found competitors installing their equipment in my racks, running wire through my conduits, using my electricity, etc. in multi-tenant buildings. I once I even found a Cobalt RAQ3 hosting my competitors website and his customer websites stuffed into one of my remote racks.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: As a building owner...

      How about you wire the damn thing properly when it's built?

      Failing that, how about when someone asks the maintenance people to do cable drops, they do it in a timely and competent manner?

      It sucks when you wait 4 weeks for network cable to be dropped... and then it's terminated with RJ-11!

      1. whoseyourdaddy

        Re: As a building owner...

        "How about you wire the damn thing properly when it's built?"

        Eh... Buildings built after Clinton left office usually support more than one provider (Fios, Uverse, and whatever the cableTV provider is.)

        Past few years, it's always RG6 and Cat 5 in the walls and the building has conduit to the wiring closet or demarcation point where new fiber could be pulled at some point.

        More than a decade ago, Cat5 wasn't cheap and everyone thought RG6/Coax would live forever.

      2. Donn Bly

        Re: As a building owner...

        How about you wire the damn thing properly when it's built?

        Perhaps because the buildings were built before the transistor? Even electricity, hot water, and indoor toilets were retrofits.

        Failing that, how about when someone asks the maintenance people to do cable drops, they do it in a timely and competent manner?

        As these are old buildings, they were not built with structured wiring in mind and running surface molding down the halls looks tacky. Some conduits were added in the last major remodel, but obviously not enough -- and I'm not tearing out walls, floors, and ceilings to add more because (1) it costs money (2) I would never recoop the costs. If you don't like it, buy your own building.

    2. Fihart

      Re: As a building owner...

      Similar issue with TV. Sky has been incentivising landlords to install a dish and wiring. Just coincidentally, the regular coax wiring to traditional roof aerials gets removed. Sky presumably hope that leaves tenants no choice but to subscribe.

      Fortunately, there's a good supply of old Sky boxes dumped on the street and they work as Freesat without a subscription -- I'm happy to pass these on to my neighbouring landlord's tenants. Equally, Sky haven't reckoned with the fact that today's tenants are just as likely to watch TV via the internet.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: As a building owner...


        This is not a word. The phrase you are looking for is "giving incentives to".

        HAND etc.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As someone who was on a condo board...

    The issue is more than just choice.

    How easy it is will depend on the building and how their broadband (cable) network is laid out.

    Builders will always find the cheapest solution even if its not the best.

    We were approached by Comcast to do a building wide deal. Some residents wanted to offer basic cable as part of their monthly assessments. When you looked at the deal, you notice a few things...

    1) Lock in period. Usually a 5 year contract. (We limit our contracts to 2 or 3 years maximum depending on the service.

    2) Pricing. When you have someone who only wants basic cable, its a great deal. If you want some premium channels or packages, you end up paying more.

    3) The condo association was on the hook for anyone who didn't pay their monthly bill to the cable company. So if you got basic and then added premium packages, and you didn't pay, we got stuck with the tab. So we would become the cable company's bill collector.

    4) Choice. There's a difference between cable and satellite packages. Some people moved in and already had their own Direct TV box. So they wanted Satellite. Others wanted Cable. So you end up pissing off a large majority of owners if you do an exclusive deal.

    What we did find is that most now have Comcast because of internet.

    We did also let in Century which is a competitor because some wanted to go with them. They too wanted to get an exclusive deal. It didn't happen and they agreed to our terms and did the install. This meant drilling holes in the floors of the telco closet on each floor in order to run their own cable. The net result, few switched and it was a loss for them. (They still provide service to some residents. )

    Note: This is a Condo.

    Apartments would have the same issue, and its up to the landlord to decide what to do. Depending on the building size, they may offer their own plans and have a deal w Comcast or the other major cable providers. They will do what they want and what is cheaper for them.

    In certain markets... you care more about location and price versus your cable provider. If you don't like it, you can cut your cable and just go with internet and over the air broadcasts, which actually have better quality pictures.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: As someone who was on a condo board...

      Why not wire up the building generically and then let people use who they want. Won't the companies wire to a patch panel in the basement?

      My flat (one of a set in a newly refurbished building) has coax and phone connections in every room (no cat5 though) available to be patched from the common utility room. (The satellite connections are apparently live too, but I've not used them)

      It also helps that in the UK, the 'last mile' is run (supposedly) independently from the media companies, and available to anyone who can install their kit in the exchange, or rent access to someone elses.

  7. spacecadet66

    I WISH I could get a different ISP just by changing buildings. The city I live in has a page on its official municipal website about the cable and Internet situation, and what it boils down to is "Sorry, it's got to be Comcast. No other ISP showed an interest, and believe me, we asked."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: no other ISP show an interest

      Sounds like a market opportunity - why not start your own ISP?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: re: no other ISP show an interest

        because once he goes into business, Comcast will charge 10% less than he does for the same service. They can afford to subsidize that until he runs out of money. Guess what happens to their rates then?

    2. M Mouse

      Makes me appreciate the fact I have a choice of 10, 20, 50 ISPs via my POTS line, and if I move to another part of the city, up to 1000 Mbps (each way) for GBP 60/month (about $75 I guess right now) for pure internet service, a small (GBP 3 / US$ 5) addition for a landline number (VOIP) is an option. With a POTS line, then most are probably with one of the big 5/6/7 (depending on who one includes as major UK ISPs), but the smaller ISPs offer services - probably at higher cost and perhaps some better customer service, or are niche and only serve businesses, but we have over 100 ISPs (see

      Now although some consider TV aerials rather ugly, with row after row of them in UK towns and cities, fact is our FTA services are enough to entertain in most areas (unless you are stuck in a valley and a local relay offers only say 15 stations not the regular 80+ and several HD). Choose Now TV and you can get several of the entertainment channels via the internet, some live, plenty of catch-up and box sets, or their movies deal, at pretty low cost (GBP 8/month for entertainment, and another 8/month for movies, I think), while Sky satellite will cost anything up to 100 GBP depending on features (HD is extra, multiple rooms extra, etc). Virgin Media doesn't serve my road so don't know or follow their charges

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