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Legislation opening up internet service to competition passes

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(S.F. Examiner file photo)
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San Francisco is cracking down on de facto agreements among building owners that cut out competition among internet providers.

Supervisor Mark Farrell’s legislation, which was was approved in a 9-to-1 vote Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors, amends the police code to prohibit owners of apartment buildings from interfering with the choice of internet providers.

“This bill effectively closes a very glaring loophole that’s been used by some to effectively deny true choice and competition here in San Francisco,” Farrell said. “For tens of thousands of our city’s residents, businesses and tenants, they often lack true choice in picking their internet service provider.”

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Farrell said that “while the federal government outlaws owners, landlord and property managers from entering into exclusive agreements with service providers, de facto exclusivity agreements and other barriers continue to persist throughout San Francisco and other cities across the country.”

The approval of the proposal did not come without political drama. Supervisor Aaron Peskin unsuccessfully argued for a postponement of the vote citing legal issues raised in a confidential memo.

Farrell – who is often at odds with Peskin and both are potential 2019 mayoral candidates — then shot back that Peskin was carrying “the bucket of water for Comcast and some other internet service providers that have been ones denying choice in San Francisco for decades.”

Peskin retorted, “I take exception at your unfounded allegations.” He then went on to suggest Farrell was pushing the legislation to benefit Google.

But Farrell said he hasn’t met with Google at all. “I’m very comfortable where we are with this piece of legislation,” Farrell said. “I don’t see the need to delay it.”

Peskin was the lone no vote on the legislation. He may revise his vote next week on the second read, when the board will also have a closed session to discuss the legal issues Peskin was concerned about.

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