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Question of the Day #1 -- What is an “MDU”?

“MDU” stands for “multi-dwelling unit”; an “MDU property” is a real estate development or complex that includes multi-dwelling units, such as apartments or condominium units.

The definition of “MDU” is important to service providers and to property owners because the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has promulgated rules governing certain aspects of the cable and broadband business for MDUs. The FCC rules focus on two areas: exclusive service agreements and inside wiring.

Exclusive Service Agreements

In 2007, the FCC issued an Order banning the enforcement of exclusive service agreements (both existing and future) between most video service providers and the owners of MDU properties, including homeowners’ associations for condominiums. The so-called “Exclusivity Order” specifically exempts satellite-delivered video from its scope, so that DIRECTV and Dish Network, and their respective dealers, may continue to enter into enforceable exclusive video service agreements with MDU owners.

In 2008, the FCC issued a second Order banning the enforcement of exclusive service agreements (both existing and future) between all providers of “telecommunications services” and owners of MDU properties. Because the FCC’s 2015 Order on Net Neutrality defines broadband Internet access service as a “telecommunications service”, the 2008 Order precludes the enforcement of exclusive agreements for Internet services at MDU properties.

Inside Wiring

Beginning in 1997 (more or less), the FCC promulgated rules governing the disposition of cable inside wiring that is owned by an incumbent cable operator when the cable company loses its right to provide service to MDU residents. The rules deal separately with “cable home wiring” (within the MDU unit) and “cable home run wiring” (extending from the telecommunications closet or lockbox to the unit) and are designed to facilitate video service competition at MDU properties by allowing the property owner to gain control over inside wiring so that it can be made available for use by a competitive provider. Although the FCC’s inside wiring rules are perhaps not as relevant as they once were (before cable company agreements specified that the company is given exclusive access to and use of wiring owned by the property owner), they can still be used effectively in some circumstances.


Each of the Exclusivity Order and the Inside Wiring Order resulted in rules promulgated by the FCC. Strangely, the respective definitions are different:

In the Exclusivity rule (47 CFR 76.2000), the term “MDU” means (emphasis added):

“… a multiple dwelling unit building (such as an apartment building, condominium building or cooperative) and any other centrally managed residential real estate development (such as a gated community, mobile home park, or garden apartment); provided however, that MDU shall not include time share units, academic campuses and dormitories, military bases, hotels, rooming houses, prisons, jails, halfway houses, hospitals, nursing homes or other assisted living facilities.

Whereas in the Inside Wiring rule (47 CRF 76.800), “MDU” means:

“A multiple dwelling unit building (e.g., an apartment building, condominium building or cooperative).”

It appears that the definition provided in 47 CFR 76.800 – which is part of the Inside Wiring rule – is broader than the definition provided in 76.2000, which applies only to the prohibition on exclusive access agreements. The distinction can be important when dealing with buildings that house a relatively transient population such as hotels, nursing homes, student dormitories, and so on.
For example, under 76.800, a prison or a hotel or a nursing home or a student dormitory would be considered an “MDU” when determining whether or not the Inside Wiring rules apply to those kind of buildings. Therefore, the owner of a hotel or nursing home or student dormitory may utilize the Inside Wiring rules to gain control over home run wiring owned by the cable operator for the purpose of facilitating competition.
However, under 76.2000, the prohibition on exclusive contracts would not apply to those types of buildings in which residency is transient. That is, the owner of a nursing home, gated community, prison, mobile home park, academic campus, hotel, etc. may grant exclusive access to a cable operator.

This variance in definitions was probably the unintended result of historical accident as there does not seem to be any underlying logic. Nonetheless, it may be important to know that the variance exists in some situations.

If you have a question or problem relating to a MDU property, please contact the Kandutsch Law Office.

Categories: Question of the Day


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Multifamily Broadband Council (MBC) 

In wake of the FCC’s Notice of Inquiry called Improving Competitive Broadband Access to Multiple Tenant Environments, competitive access to multi-tenant properties is again a burning public policy issue. We intend to summarize the controversy in a series of blog entries in the coming weeks.

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