Mark Farrell
Oct 19, 2016 · 2 min read

SAN FRANCISCO — Today, Supervisor Mark Farrell will introduce a law that guarantees tenants the right to pick their own Internet service provider (ISP) in all multi-unit buildings.

“Internet access must be viewed as a fundamental right in today’s world,” said Farrell. “There is no reason tenants should be limited in their choice of Internet service providers.”

Currently, thousands of residents and businesses in multi-unit residential and commercial buildings are not given a choice in what ISP they use. Often — absent permission from a landlord, property owner, or property manager — individual ISP’s are unable to access multi-unit buildings to provide Internet service when requested by residents or businesses.

Federal law bans property owners, landlords, and property managers from entering into exclusive agreements with service providers. But local ISP’s estimate that approximately 500 multi-dwelling unit buildings, representing more than 50,000 units have limitations in place that effectively deny them the opportunity to provide Internet access.

Farrell aims to remedy the situation. He says his policy will stop this interference and establish parameters and requirements for how and when qualified ISP’s can provide service to multi-unit buildings.

Farrell’s policy applies to commercial properties and to residential buildings that are at least four units or more. Only qualified ISP’s certified by the California Public Utilities Commission will be authorized to provide the Internet service when requested.

“As San Francisco residents, we all have a vested interest in local laws which increase competition and ultimately deliver the highest quality Internet service at the lowest cost,” said Farrell. “Limiting consumer choice is plain and simply bad for San Francisco.”

“As competitive providers of voice and internet services, our members often have problems gaining access to residential and business customers that occupy multi-unit buildings in San Francisco,” said Sarah DeYoung, Executive Director of CALTEL, a non-profit trade association that represents competitive carriers in California. “Although exclusive agreements with incumbent telecom or cable providers have been prohibited for many years, some building managers and owners still prefer the “single vendor” model of yesterday. Supervisor Farrell’s proposed ordinance provides a simple and time-bound process that provides fair compensation to building owners, protects the safety of all building occupants, and provides competitive choice to customers of today’s critical communications services.”

Under Farrell’s policy, qualified ISP’s are mandated to provide proper advance written notice to property owners. Qualified ISP’s will be able to provide Internet service potentially within a month of a resident’s or business’ first request. Most importantly, qualified ISP’s will also be allowed to access the inside of buildings in order to provide service.

Farrell’s policy will be heard in a Board of Supervisors committee in late November. Farrell aims to pass this policy at the Board of Supervisors before the Board’s breaks for winter recess on December 13, 2016.

Mark Farrell

Written by

Mayor of San Francisco. Father of 3, husband to @lbfarrell, native San Franciscan.