Halloween will be a little scarier this year. Along with the other horrifying regulations on this Wednesday’s schedule we can now add a new law that would allow the FCC to expand its powers by preventing and striking down exclusivity deals between apartment owners and cable television providers. The FCC claims exclusivity deals are anti-competitive, keeps cable costs high, and strips renters of their ability to choose cable providers. If this rule was applied only to public housing, they may have a point, but the FCC wants to prevent private building owners from making these deals, and potentially striking down contracts that are already in place—a move that would be far over-stepping the FCC’s current scope of powers. And while the new regulations probably won’t slash the cost of cable, it will take a swipe at the already tattered list of landlords’ rights.
Stores such as Wal-Mart are able to get cheaper prices on goods by buying large quantities and passing the savings onto customers. Similarly, landlords are able to get better deals on cable television by signing exclusivity deals for their entire complex. If the cost of cable is truly important to potential tenants, landlords will pass along the savings to attract renters. Some buildings, usually those that can not compete with other amenities, even offer free cable to entice renters. Anti-exclusivity laws make it certain that landlords will not be able to offer such deals in the future.
Scarier than the fact that this regulation won’t save money, is the disregard this law has for the rights of property owners. Buying an apartment with the intention to rent is a huge risk, borne entirely by the owner. If rooms go un-rented will the FCC make up for the owner’s lost profits? No—and we wouldn’t expect it to. But in that case, the FCC should get out of the way and let the landlords do whatever they deem necessary to attract and keep renters. If owners are striking deals with cable companies and prices are still too high for renters, they always have the choice to move to a different complex.