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FCC Clarifies Cable Wiring Rules For MDUs

Washington — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Thursday approved measures to encourage more open competition for telephone and video services in apartment, co-op and condominium developments, by addressing access rights to installed wiring.

Under the measure, new entrants seeking to compete for service against an incumbent video or telephone service provider will not be required to cut through walls to connect new cable lines inside the unit, and will be able to use cable lines and sub-loops installed by incumbent service providers, the FCC said.

The Commission found that wiring behind sheet rock is “physically inaccessible” for the purposes of inside wiring rules, like brick, cinder block and similar materials used to construct ceilings and hallways.

Competing companies must have access to the incumbent’s inside wire sub-loops in multi-unit premises at the terminal block in order to install service. The inside wire sub-loop typically is used by competing telephone companies to connect to individual consumers in multi-unit buildings.

By removing economic and operational barriers to infrastructure investment in the communications market, the Commission’s action furthers the opportunity for consumers to enjoy the social and economic benefits of communications services competition, the FCC said.

In a statement announcing the decision, FCC chairman Kevin Martin said “today we take an important step to facilitate competition in both markets by addressing the ability of new competitors to use the internal wiring of both incumbent telephone and cable operators in a consistent fashion.”

The action address a petition from Cox Cable for a declaratory ruling regarding the scope of access to incumbent telephone companies’ inside wire in apartment buildings.

“This decision allows a new entrant competing to provide telephone service to gain access to inside wiring, thereby facilitating competition between telephone providers to serve customers who live in apartment buildings,” Martin said.

Commissioner Michael Copps said the action “brings together two sets of inside wiring rules in the multi-tenant environment — the rules that apply to common carriers under Title II, and the rules that apply to cable operators under Title VI. But while the lineage of the rules is different, the underlying goal is very much the same – to bring the fruits of phone and cable competition to consumers who live and work in multi-unit buildings.”

“I see no reason why Americans who happen to live or work in multi-unit buildings should have a narrower range of choices when it comes to phone, video and broadband services than Americans who live in single-family homes,” Cox said.

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said, “Consumers are starved for more choice in video, telecommunications, and broadband services. Competition in these markets is critical as a means to constrain prices. I’ve often said that this Commission should do what it can within the scope of the law to facilitate increased competition because it benefits American consumers, promotes deployment of broadband networks and services, and enhances the free exchange of ideas in our democratic society.”

Commissioner Robert McDowell added, “today’s order is a pro-competitive, deregulatory decision and is our latest effort to achieve regulatory parity between incumbent telephone companies, incumbent cable companies and new entrants into the voice, video and data markets.”

“In this Order, we conclude that wiring installed by incumbent video providers behind sheetrock is physically inaccessible under our rules for determining the demarcation point between home wiring and home run wiring. Our ruling will help spur competition among video distributors in MDUs by making existing cable wiring available to alternative providers at a point that is not physically difficult and costly to reach.”