San Francisco is one of the few places in the United States with significant broadband competition, but many renters are barred from taking advantage of alternatives to large Internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T. Many landlords agree to restrict tenants’ choice of ISP in exchange for kickbacks from the favored provider.

On Tuesday, December 6, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will discuss (PDF) a proposed ordinance that would require landlords of multi-unit buildings to honor reasonable requests to allow service by any state-accredited ISP a tenant chooses.

Local ordinances like the one that’s been proposed in San Francisco are particularly important in light of speculation over what changes the next administration might make at the FCC. If the FCC’s Open Internet Order doesn’t survive or goes unenforced, then local provisions like this one can help deter ISP discrimination that violates net neutrality principles. Likewise, if the FCC fails to adequately protect privacy, competition will provide a check on ISPs abusing subscribers’ trust.

San Francisco residents, please contact your Supervisor and ask them to support the ordinance (File #161110, “Choice of Communications Services Providers in Multiple Occupancy Buildings”).

If you’re not based in San Francisco, consider contacting your municipal government and encouraging them to adopt similar measures, and to follow them up by laying down fiber and opening it up to competition among private ISPs. Together, we can reduce barriers to entering the ISP market and help make sure that every town and city in the United States has healthy broadband competition.

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