in exchange for a fee. A broadband provider can also raise the
transmission speed of its own content relative to that of its competitors, and broadband providers now are free to block sites
they find objectionable, which could open them up to political
and public pressure.
Those who advocated for repeal argued that higher profits
will lead broadband providers to invest more in infrastructure,
which could make high-speed internet more widely available in
underserved and rural areas. Repeal was supported by companies like AT&T and Verizon, which favor less government regulation.
Backers of net neutrality say the FCC’s repeal will damage
online companies and consumers. ISPs may charge larger companies fees to send their content over the ISPs’ networks and into
people’s homes. Those companies would then be forced to either
accept lower margins or pass the cost on to customers. Facebook
and Google spoke out against repeal, saying it would allow broadband providers to manipulate access as a way to play favorites.
Finally, net neutrality proponents warned that the June repeal could give an unfair advantage to big corporations that
can afford priority or even exclusive access, while devastating
startups and smaller websites that are unable to pay for access
and faster speeds.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR PROPERTY MANAGERS?
The short answer is that we do not yet know. However, the business of real estate is increasingly conducted online. Streaming
video, virtual tours and voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) are
just some of the technologies that are commonly used by real
estate professionals today. In the future, new technologies will
be adopted which will undoubtedly require network access that
could be restricted or slowed by an ISP.
According to the NAR website, some real estate professionals, realty website operators, and real estate industry-affiliated
content providers believe net neutrality provisions are necessary
to prevent broadband providers from implementing discriminatory practices that could negatively impact real estate professionals’ use of the internet to market their listings and services.
Some possible examples include limiting the public’s access to certain websites, limiting a firm’s access to services of
companies in competition with the ISP’s, or charging more
to have the adequate speed necessary to transmit or display
audio or video content such as online property tours, podcasts
or phone services.
Another issue of critical importance is data security. Since all
internet technologies potentially can be hacked, the safety of
properties and buildings should be a priority for all property
managers. Building management systems, fire alarms, elevators, heating, air conditioning, access control, sprinkler systems
and security systems are all areas which can be vulnerable to
Added to this is the fact that property managers keep and
maintain confidential business and personal information on
systems that can be breached. These breaches may expose fundamental security flaws in the way that companies handle consumers’ personal information, compromising individual privacy
and putting consumers at an elevated risk of becoming victims
of identity theft.
HOW MUCH LEGISLATION IS NEEDED?
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and
the Virgin Islands have enacted legislation requiring private or
governmental entities to notify individuals if their personal information may have been exposed by a security breach. However, for property managers overseeing properties in multiple
states, that could translate into a byzantine headache of navigating what is required in the wake of a data breach.
Congress is exploring potential national standards that could
make compliance easier for multistate operators. IREM supports government efforts aimed at sharing information about
possible cyber threats, establishing reasonable data security
standards, helping avert security breaches, and helping alleviate
their aftermath, while opposing legislation that would be overly
burdensome to property owners, managers or their clients.
WHAT PART DOES DATA PRIVACY PLAY?
Closely related to the issue of data security is data privacy. In
June, one of the toughest data privacy laws in the United States
was passed with the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018.
The legislation, similar to the European Union’s General Data
Protection Regulation (GDPR), is scheduled to go into effect
in 2020. The law gives California residents an array of new
rights, among them the right to know what kinds of personal
data companies have collected and why it was collected, and the
right to have that information deleted. Although technically it
applies only to California residents, this legislation is likely to
have broader implications; among them, it could initiate similar
actions in other states.
Ted Thurn ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is director of government affairs at IREM Headquarters in Chicago.