San Francisco first US city to outlaw ISP lock-ins by landlords

Renters freed from restrictions on network providers

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San Francisco has become the first major US city to bar building owners from restricting their tenants to specific ISPs.

A city law, set to take effect later this month, calls for the owners of commercial and multi-tenant (that's four units or more) buildings to allow any state-licensed internet provider to install lines to bring service to their buildings.

The law, written by Supervisor Mark Farrell, aims to ban the practice of landlords limiting tenants to specific cable or DSL operators. Now, any ISP with a certification from the California Public Utilities Commission will be able to access an apartment building or business in order to install equipment and provide service.

The carriers will be required to provide advance notice to the building owner, pay rent on the physical space the equipment occupies, and cover the cost of any damage caused by the installation.

"Access to affordable and fast Internet must be viewed as an economic and social right in today's world," Farrell declared. "Today, San Francisco is now one step closer towards providing true competition and choice in the market."

The law will likely help pave the way for the expansion of smaller internet providers such as Webpass to make further inroads into a city that, despite its notoriously booming techie population, has had fairly limited access to high-speed internet options, owing in part to its unique topography and zoning laws.

Farrell hopes his legislative efforts will help to alleviate at least one of the hurdles to growing broadband availability in the city.

"Providing more choices and competition in the market is key to closing our city's digital divide," Farrell said of his law.

"More choice and competition is also key to providing more affordable prices and higher-quality internet service to our residents and businesses." ®


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