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Should states regulate in-building wireless? 

by Martha DeGrasse 4/27/18

If in-building wireless is the fourth utility, government should make sure citizens have access -- that's the thinking behind language the Federal Communications Commission may propose to state lawmakers. The FCC's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) is currently drafting a State Model Code that includes a section dedicated to in-building systems.


The code would require building owners to make their network access points available to communications providers "on fair and non-discriminatory terms and conditions including price." According to the draft document, "network access point means a physical connection point, whether located inside or outside any building or infrastructure that enables communications providers to access the necessary network support infrastructure so as to be able to provide network services to subscribers, but does not include access to inside wiring."


The document's authors were describing Wi-Fi access points, small cells and DAS nodes, and during this week's BDAC meeting committee members pointed out that in practice access to some inside wiring would be required in order to implement a rule like this. 


Building owners who could demonstrate that allowing access would compromise national security, public health or safety or commercially sensitive intellectual property would be exempt, as would those who could point to a commercially viable alternative network access point. 


Despite these allowances, any state that tried to legislate according to this code would face a sharp backlash from the commercial real estate industry, according to Vertical Bridge CEO and BDAC committee member Marc Ganzi.


"If this hit the desk of anyone at BOMA or Nareit this would be met with probably some pretty stiff resistance," Ganzi told the committee. (BOMA is the Building Owners and Managers Association and Nareit is the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.) 


Laws that point builders to best practices that can facilitate better in-building communication would probably be welcomed by the real estate industry, Ganzi said, but he added that dictating access and pricing would raise red flags. 


Ganzi also took issue with another provision of the model code that would require network access points and conduit to be part of multi-tenant building renovations. 


"If our objective as a group is to see that we put this legislation, in the form of a model code, in front of states ... the last thing we want is the private building industry to resist these model codes .... and I think that's a real risk given these two provisions," Ganzi said. "We might want to consider some softening of these two provisions to make sure that we don't activate a base that tends to show up and has a pretty big voice on the Hill and in their states."



The in-building provisions are just one part of a much larger set of proposals under consideration by the BDAC. The group's State Model Code and its Model Code for Municipalities are both still under revision. 







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