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A proposed rule on broadband access in multifamily housing settings sets federally subsidized housing providers up for failure in serving older adult residents, according to LeadingAge.

LeadingAge Director of Housing Operations and Policy Juliana Bilowich submitted comments recently to the Federal Communications Commission on a proposed rule addressing bulk internet provisions in multifamily housing settings.

Increased connectivity in affordable senior housing, Bilowich said, is critical to resident well-being. In her comments, she noted that most Housing and Urban Development-assisted senior housing communities lack access to wall-to-wall internet, affecting both property operations and resident well-being.

“Connectivity is a critical determinant of health; older adults need access to affordable internet service in their homes for telehealth services, and to combat social isolation,” Bilowich wrote.

Specifically, LeadingAge asked the government to reconsider components of the rule related to exclusive marketing and wiring agreements. The proposed rule, according to the association, allows internet service providers to prohibit multifamily housing providers from providing bulk service access to their tenants.

“Language on ‘bulk bans’ for these housing settings disregard the nature of affordable senior housing communities, where the housing providers play a critical role in facilitating internet access for residents with low incomes, and often with low digital literacy or access points,” Bilowich wrote.

The proposed rule also does not alleviate contract challenges that “place undue restrictions on internet provision in multifamily housing settings,” the letter said. 

Exclusive wiring agreements prevent providers from using other internet services providers and limit resident choice, Bilowich said, asking the FCC to release providers from “inappropriate contracts.” The association also called on the agency to increase affordability and encourage competitive choice among internet service providers.

LeadingAge called on the FCC to reconsider its approach to providing in-home internet in multifamily housing settings by implementing “reasonable standards and guardrails that support multifamily housing providers in providing quality, affordable internet connectivity options” to their communities.