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Landlords, ISPs Team Up To Rip Off Tenants On Broadband (backchannel.com) 173

"Network operators like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and ATT, in cahoots with [real estate] developers and landlords, routinely use a breathtaking array of kickbacks, lawyerly games of Twister, blunt threats, and downright illegal activities to lock up buildings in exclusive arrangements," reports Harvard Law Professor Susan Crawford. itwbennett writes: Eight years ago, the FCC issued an order banning exclusive agreements between landlords and ISPs, but a loophole is being exploited, leaving many tenants in apartment buildings with only one choice of broadband service provider. The loophole works like this: Instead of having an exclusive agreement with one provider, the landlords refuse to let any other companies than their chosen providers access their properties...
"This astounding, enormous, decentralized payola scheme affects millions of American lives," Crawford writes, revealing Comcast's revenue-sharing proposals for property owners and urging cities (and national lawmakers) to require broadband neutrality in residential buildings. Other loopholes are also being exploited, Crawford writes, and "it's why commercial tenants in NYC pay through the nose for awful Internet access service in the fanciest of commercial buildings... We've got to take landlords out of the equation -- all they're doing is looking for payments and deals...and the giant telecom providers in our country are more than happy to pay up."
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Landlords, ISPs Team Up To Rip Off Tenants On Broadband

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 02, 2016 @06:44PM (#52436007)

    Vote for Trump!

    • Vote for Trump!

      Need "ironic" mod points.

  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @06:51PM (#52436023)
    it would be a shame if something happened to it.
  • by SeattleLawGuy ( 4561077 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @06:51PM (#52436025)

    While a good idea in theory, ultimately Telecom has a massive and very effective lobby. This also fails to address the very real problem you sometimes have in the Northeast where competing installers will cut or pull another guy's cable during an install, either to make room for theirs or out of a more childish nonprofessionalism in some parts of installer culture. However, there are plenty of ways to deal with that which do not stifle competition.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Thanks Bush! Internet should not have been made an information service back in 2004. Common carrier would have been the proper choice but politics and lobbying dollars tilted the tables in the telecom's favor.

      As we learned the hard way (like Iraq), it takes a long time to roll back decisions basted in corruption.

      Captcha: ransacks

      • I don't know why you are blaming Bush.. He had absolutely nothing to do with it. The FCC until recently took the position that the internet was always an information service until a court rejected the premise and made it a telecommunications service (subject to common carrier regulation) in which another court overturned that ruling taking it back to the original information service designation. Neither Bush nor congress or the FCC at the time had invested any regulatory or law making abilities in making th

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Sounds like you're a fan of revisionism. Let me help you out:

          1) Back then, Michael Powell specifically said that opening cable lines up to competition might "discourage investment and innovation". Now that we have hindsight to rely on, that was exactly the wrong decision.

          2) Bush lawyers actively tried to overturn the 9th circuit court of appeals ruling that classifying as an information service was in direct conflict with the 1996 Telecom act. Google the appeal or pull up Lexis, the lawyers are listed th

          • There is absolutely no revisionism. Perhaps English is not your first language or something so I will give you a pass on your complete ignorance but here are a few of your errors. First, it doesn't matter what Micheal Powell said, he used absolutely no regulatory power or procedure to change the classification from a telecommunications service to an information service (neither did Bush) as the idiot I originally replied to implied (probably you). Second, the Bush lawyers did nothing but kept the historical

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...and I live in Palo Alto, the heart of Silicon Valley.

    There are two choices of "broadband" here: Comcast, AT+T DSL.

    We are 15k feet from the substation. AT+T claims you can get "Up To 768 Kbps". Really? In 2016? To me that doesn't qualify as broadband. You pay $30 / month with a maximum of 300GB of data, and you probably see 1/3 of that speed at this distance.

    Which leaves Comcast as the only real choice. They are terrible and I hate them, but they offer 10Mbps for $39.99 / month which beats the pants of of

    • by irving47 ( 73147 )

      Does AT&T still have to offer a speed like that at the $20/month rate? I know they used to... They just weren't required to advertise it.

      Heart of silicon valley... I'm SURE the frequencies are congested there, but I'm also sure that's because they exist in great numbers out there.... Wireless ISP's? Some of them have pretty decent rates. http://www.wispa.org/Directories/Find-a-WISP

    • That's not the landlord though. That's just the Bay Area. AT&T's "broadband" sucks balls everywhere here, meaning that Comcast is your only choice. If you work for one of the big tech companies many of them have deals that let you get teleworker service from Comcast, which is a lot better than the normal consumer grade crap they shovel.

  • Apartment in Cali... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Has Cox cable, don't want it. Called Dish Network, they said no problem for apartments as they have small dish units that hang out window or something. Install guy gets here and is told by maintenance guy that they can't install it, and to remove all others currently being used because cableco is already available to tenants (but not free). Slime bag landlords.
    • by MrLogic17 ( 233498 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @07:18PM (#52436133) Journal

      Have mod points, would rather educate.
      You have a lawsuit against your landlord. Federal law grants you the right to mount a dish.
      I have personally fought a home owners association, and won.
      https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/... [fcc.gov]

      • by irving47 ( 73147 )

        I agree, possible lawsuit. I've read into it many times.Hanging out of the window might do the job...

        They are allowed to have them out of site, on the roof, on their "reasonably private" patios etc, but supposedly not allowed to hang them on the outside of the building attached to the exterior...

        • by TroII ( 4484479 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @09:12PM (#52436481)

          I'd suggest getting a 5 gallon bucket, filling it with concrete, and setting a pole in the center. Once the concrete cures, schedule the dish guy to come out and attach the dish to the pole. It's unsightly as fuck, which is a nice way of giving the finger back to the landlord. Once potential renters start telling him they're put off by all the ghetto looking satellite buckets, maybe he'll reconsider.

          • I'm confused, is the 5 gallon bucket in your apartment or out the window? Does the poll point straight up and down and they attach a mast to that or is it angled out the window?

        • by adolf ( 21054 )

          The law in question has nothing to do with whether the dish is visible or not.

          It just has to be on property that you're renting, that would reasonably considered to be for your own use. A private patio or deck is a good example. It can't go on common property -- eg, on the porch of a shared entryway.

          This can be problematic on shared apartment buildings, as not every apartment has a suitably private spot. It's a no-brainer for things like rental houses and just about any duplex, however.

          And it's not just

      • As I understand it, FCC hires you a lawyer and they always win.

    • by irving47 ( 73147 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @07:29PM (#52436179) Homepage

      Tell your installer and Dish to ignore the maintenance guy. Read the website that MrLogic posted... It informs you of what your rights are. If they start removing multiple dishes from account holders, Dish may just handle it for you...

  • Same in China (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 02, 2016 @07:02PM (#52436083)

    In mainland China we had the same issue. We were paying about 10,000rmb a year ($2000 US) for awful slow broadband (5mbps fibre). After 5 years we noticed we could see our house from the office, so we bought two antennas and wireless APs and beamed our fast 100mbps home internet which cost 1600rmb per year ($320) and ran the entire office off of that. Commercial building lockdown should be illegal

  • by mattmarlowe ( 694498 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @07:21PM (#52436155) Homepage

    There may be situations where a landlord has a good reason to limit who is accessing and modifying the cable/wire infrastructure of a property - so, a blanket ban on such is probably not a good idea.

    On the other hand, I don't have any problem with banning the kickbacks/payments that encourage the practice at the cost of renter choice.

    • by gumbi west ( 610122 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @09:38PM (#52436595) Journal

      I disagree. The land lord provides access to your front door, water, sewer, electric. While providing all of these things might be inconvenient for them and there may be good reason for the land lord to not provide them... they still have to just provide them. Similarly, providing IT infrastructure is a must. These other services were added to old buildings, some ethernet cable can be too. For new buildings, you're insane if you don't keep some extra conduits for the next thing you're going to want to run and failure to plan isn't really an excuse--it's just a stupid tax that you now have to pay.

      • Water, sewer, and electric are easy because they're utilities. As a landlord, I only need to connect those up to one system and everyone is good to go. That's not the case for ISPs. Some are DSL, some are cable, some are fiber, some are WLAN. (The DSL is not a problem because it runs straight to the tenant's phone, and switching DSL ISPs is transparent for the landlord.)

        It's the same reason local governments granted cable monopolies - from a physical hardware perspective, it's not very practical to l
        • this post is about not letting the ISP do all that work. If they want to pull a bunch of cable, why stop them?

        • by Strider- ( 39683 )

          But in-building coax won't work with two cable ISPs unless you lay down two parallel coax networks.

          No reason why you couldn't have different cable ISPs on different frequencies on the one cable. This is just another reason why the content and internet service should be completely severed from the company operating the physical plant. Yeah, your physical plant (either twisted pair, coax, or fiber) is a natural monopoly. There's no reason why the content and/or internet service has to be.

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      There may be situations where a landlord has a good reason to limit who is accessing and modifying the cable/wire infrastructure of a property

      Curious -- what kind of reasons? What's a good reason for which a landlord would allow Comcast to come modify the cable infrastructure but not, say, Time Warner? I honestly can't think of any.

      • There are thousands of reasons. They're printed on green pieces of paper.
      • by Cinnamon Beige ( 1952554 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @11:50PM (#52436973)

        Where I lived, there was a long period during which you didn't want a TWC installer coming in and working unsupervised. They are (were?) generally subcontractors and at that time the quality varied very wildly--and unless you had already weird cable, you really had little chance of knowing the quality of who was going to get dispatched to you...and the bad ones did more than just leave you with no working cable.

        This is a legitimate reason for a landlord to ban them: "This company's installers have a tendency to do unnecessary property damage, and while some may be competent or better there's no way to ensure we get any of those."

        The better solution of course is for the companies to do what the local TWC did: start actually being careful about ensuring your installers are actually competent...

        Long-term, it ought to be possible by now to get it so a cable or satellite installer doesn't need to do much alteration to the building's structure--have it built into the walls like electrical wiring, so an installer's simply dealing with plugging things in, with all new lines being outside the building...which would solve the problems bad installers cause, eventually.

  • Time Warner has got an almost complete stranglehold on the residential market in LA due to these shady anti-competitive actions. All they have to do is convince the landlord to agree to claim that new network service installs would leave unnecessary extra holes in the walls (even when its not true, though usually this is technically true.)

    • I'm not entirely sure why there aren't low power level wireless devices that can penetrate into these building from say a block away or so. Then competitors who come across a locked situation like this could place a device on the utility pole or the utility service box and not need to run wires on the property.

      The downside would be a shared connection that might eventually become saturated but cable providers could possibly use something with enough bandwidth to deliver tv service also making it minimal. We

  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @08:15PM (#52436285) Journal

    I don't see how this is not an exclusive agreement.

    Yes, it's not an agreement in writing, but the landlord and the ISP clearly agree that no other ISP will be able to sell to tenants. How is that not exclusive?

  • everyone thinks that if this is specifically outlawed, everyone will be cool with it, and the landlords won't do anything to recoup the lost income like, oh, say, raise rents

  • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @08:44PM (#52436379)

    In France, when an operator installs broadband in a building, after 6 month, he must allow competitors to rent the lines for a regulated price. This was done to avoid the situation where some buildings had fiber from multiple operators where others had nothing.
    It can be useful as a way to prevent the landlord-isp-tenant conflict since once the building is cabled, there is no need for other operators to access it.

    BTW, this rule didn't prevent operators from investing and I would't be surprised if it was a EU-wide decision.

    • I'm not sure how it works but I think we have a similar thing in the Netherlands. I have a cable going to my apartment. That gives me the choice of going with any cable provider. There's no lock-in that I can see.

      Incidentally in my house in Australia it's the opposite. We have Foxtel and Optus in the street as well as NBN. This means in addition to having power coming into my house overhead I also have 2 overhead lines for cable companies going to two grey boxes with 2 different cable routes through the hou

  • Just like with phone landlines, dump those piss poor "broadband" wired lines and go for 4G mobile data. Not perfect, I know, but it sounds like the wired offerings are worse and more expensive. Mobile data is getting cheap fast - or do you guys also have cartels there?

    • by jetkust ( 596906 )
      I'm with you on this. I can only get AT&T Uverse and they pretty much suck. I dropped them for a prepaid T-Mobile hotspot and HD antenna tv. They asked me why I was canceling and I told them because I have no confidence you can even provide your own service. They didn't have much to say after that.

      It's more expensive at the moment, but theres no way I'm going back. The reliability and freedom of home mobile is just too good. I don't have to deal with incomprehensible billing practices. I don't
    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      The problem is congestion, there is only a fixed amount of wireless spectrum that must be shared by everyone in the area, while any number of physical lines can be installed. If everyone starts using wireless then the performance will get worse across the board.
      Wired should be used whenever possible, leaving more wireless spectrum free for those cases when wired isn't possible.

  • No, not Lucy's Ricky, but RICO (The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) a law originally intended to go after Mafia syndicates. It basically makes decision makers responsible when a criminal conspiracy is uncovered.

    But recently it has been applied to a wide variety of conspiracies. From Wikipaedia* or thereabouts "In April 2000, federal judge William J. Rea in Los Angeles, ruling in one Rampart scandal case, said that the plaintiffs could pursue RICO claims against the LAPD, an unprecedented

  • What's the landlord's incentive to disallow access to a company wanting to install a utility for the tenant if the landlord isn't getting some kind of price break on their own utilities in exchange for an effective monopoly ?

    The FCC's regulations prohibit such price deals, so why would a landlord participate in keeping a monopoly going when there's nothing in it for them?

    • Frequently property managers get $X for every sign-up they refer to the provider. I provided wireless internet years ago, and this was somewhat common for larger complexes in Massachusetts. Additionally, many property managers/landlords are wary of having anyone new offer services, because realistically it is a lot less "risk" to say no in most cases than to say "yes" and have someone destroy your wiring closet, put a phone tap in, etc.

      Remember, in most states there is no license for providing internet serv

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )

        Frequently property managers get $X for every sign-up they refer to the provider

        It's my understanding that sort of thing is what the FCC prohibits... if nothing else, the provider would get in trouble unless they were fudging their own books and lying about where money was going without getting caught.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      My guess is that it would be the standard excuse -- I don't want more mess from installers boring holes.

      I'm sort of sympathetic to it, as people doing installs for utilities are often low-rent subcontractors paid in a way where they have every incentive to bang the fucking job out as quickly as possible with as little consideration for the property as possible.

      Plus, I would imagine a lot of landlords who aren't big commercial companies with full sized maintenance staff want to maximize rental income. Payin

      • people are, on average, don't care, or notice, that their internet sucks as long as they can watch netflix. and if you live in a fancy building in NYC, you're either a multimillionaire or daddy is footing the bill (or both), so you won't feel the pinch there either.

        someone not in china or dubai really needs to build a new and better city.

  • This stinks like phones in hotels. Adding a huge surcharge to any long distance calls.

    • Does anyone even still use those, other than for internal calls?

      By the way in my area it's normal for 4/5 star hotels to provide mobile phones for clients, with unlimited local calls, unlimited calls to various international destinations and unlimited data. Included with the room.

  • The irony is that half of you idiots complaining will vote for Hillary Clinton, who is 100% guaranteed to not only continue this, but do MORE of it for her Wall Street Buddies...

    Now I have no idea if Trump would do anything to stop it, but there is at least a CHANCE... Even Bernie would be better than Hillary... (and I think Bernie is nuts! But I also think he is an honest nuts, and I can live with that)

    But go ahead, rant at how evil companies are, then keep voting for the same idiots in office over and

    • by ThatsMyNick ( 2004126 ) on Sunday July 03, 2016 @01:19AM (#52437189)

      Hillary will be just like Obama, that is exactly why I vote for here. Obama accepts wall street donations. Obama accepts pharma donations. Obama accepts big oil donations. Obama accepts cable co donation. But Obama has not been bad president for any of these reasons. I dont mind 4 more years (or 8 more years) of Obama alike.

      Now I have no idea if Trump would do anything to stop it, but there is at least a CHANCE

      That is exactly the problem. Trump could make it better. Trump could make it worse. Trump could make it far better. Trump could make it far worse. There is no way of knowing anything. It like voting an 8 ball as the president. An 8 ball is not hillary, it has that going for it, right?

      • But Obama has not been bad president for any of these reasons. I dont mind 4 more years (or 8 more years) of Obama alike.

        No, he has been a terrible President for lots of other reasons... :)

        You may not mind 4 more years of him, but you would if you understood what was happening to America in the process... unless of course, you WANT that to happen to America, I suppose those people exist too..

        America has become diminished, less, in the eyes of the world and in itself in the past 8 years. I am no longer proud of my country and now see it for the falling power that it once was.

        And this is sad, because so many men fought and di

        • America has only become better during Obama's tenure. I certainly am proud of my country.

          America has become diminished, less, in the eyes of the world and in itself in the past 8 years. I am no longer proud of my country and now see it for the falling power that it once was.

          And this is sad, because so many men fought and died to get us here, and now so many are willing to throw that all away...

          If more people have to die, just to make you proud of your country, I dont think I can support that.

          • America has only become better during Obama's tenure. I certainly am proud of my country.

            You have a funny idea of what "better" means...

            The sad thing is, like I said, you won't know what you've lost until it is gone...

            If more people have to die, just to make you proud of your country, I dont think I can support that.

            You make my point, you simply don't get it... It is unlikely I could say anything to help you since you probably aren't open to learning anything. You would rather reinforce your existing viewpoint rather than open your mind to something new.

            • You make my point, you simply don't get it... It is unlikely I could say anything to help you since you probably aren't open to learning anything. You would rather reinforce your existing viewpoint rather than open your mind to something new.

              The problem you dont have a point, I cant get your point if you dont have one. In what ways has America become worse than it started in the last 8 years. What makes you not so proud of America. You dont say anything, and you expect me to telepathically understand your point, and you blame me for not getting your point? Well, looks like we have found what America's problem is. It is this.

              You have a funny idea of what "better" means...

              Touche

        • America has become diminished, less, in the eyes of the world and in itself in the past 8 years.

          Says who? You? Why? You're talking about the nation that with a few allies pretty much runs the ENTIRE PLANET. A Cultural, Technological and Information Hegemony like you wouldn't believe. Even in nations that supposedly "hate" us, they consume our media!

          Do you actually think a few terrorists attacks diminished us? There are over 300 MILLION people in the US. They're like the buzzing of flies, no real threat.

    • The real irony is that you're calling out others while you think this is a problem solved by selecting a different figurehead in a broken system of government.

      • The real irony is that you're calling out others while you think this is a problem solved by selecting a different figurehead in a broken system of government.

        I'd rather try a new figurehead who at least might toss out the bums, before tossing out the entire Government... Putting Hillary in office does nothing, it just continues the existing path we've been on for many years...

        Removing them all will be ugly before it gets better, and isn't a decision to be taken lightly... We aren't there yet, but I can see it happening within my remaining lifetime if we don't change course...

        ---

        Since WWII, we've had 2 or 3 really good Presidents, and a lot of bad ones... Cong

        • Oh I agree. But it's the system which wreaks the efforts of even those who are capable. The wholesale removal of all people in congress would be a great start to changing things.

          • Oh I agree. But it's the system which wreaks the efforts of even those who are capable.

            It would take a "strongman" to do it, but so often those turn bad (see: most of them in history)...

            The wholesale removal of all people in congress would be a great start to changing things.

            It will, sadly, take another war to do that, I don't see a peaceful path forward to do it.

            Which is a shame...

    • Damn, I can't wait until this horrible election is over with and we can stop getting political comments on every damned story.

  • Was tooling along, happy as a clam on cable at the time.

    And we get a notice that the landlords are kicking Comcast out of the building and turning control over to some no-name (Suite Solutions) DSL and Satellite reseller.

    What's more, they hadn't even notified Comcast about it yet!

    It got fought in the courts for about a year and a half and then boom. No more Comcast.

    So I had a couple years' slog with DSL (bought straight from AT&T so as not to pay the Suite Solutions markup) until I finally got fed up w

  • Instead we have 4 internet company that mange to own all the lines.

    You have 4 telecom companies and that's it. Shaw, Rogers, Telus, Bell. They all treat you rather poorly when it comes to price gouging since they have the market cornered. Even Shaw and Rogers traded assets, basically western canada and eastern so they don't compete with each other, so each company can suck as much as they can out of someone with no viable alternatives.

    5 MBIT connection runs you around 55$ now.

  • A libertarian utopia would be rife with deals like these, and there would be nothing anyone could do to stop it. Landlords could do the same for (separate) TV and phone service too if they liked.

  • What makes you think landlords are? How many franchise agreements for an area out there include language that block any other provider?

    The idea we live in a free market economy is just jerking off capitalists. There is no free market; you're only free to do as the market demands.
  • My condo signs contracts that cause every unit to be billed $35. per month regardless of the fact that many owners only spend a few weeks a year in their units. Snowbirds keep condos here for the worst weeks of winter up north as an escape from the cold. That $35 dollars a month gets a cheaper bill for all residents and we can not stop anyone from also getting a dish to access other programming. But most people simply do not want to pay for a dish service and a cable service so the effect is that Comcast
  • That's the problem. Some things become a natural monopoly unless you're willing to spend a LOT of money. Well, no, the real problem is that building managers - like hotel phone service managers before most guests had cellphones - start to see everything as a profit center, including something that they aren't even paying costs for. For buildings that existed before cable, someone chose ONE cable company to come and retrofit cable everywhere, so it's a monopoly; for newer construction, with cable preinsta

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