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Bulk cable in condos isn’t just for TV anymore
by: Rob Samouce
One of the more needed changes in how certain telecommunication services will be provided to condominium associations in the future became effective on July 1, 2010. Finally it appears, at least in this communication services arena, that the law is catching up to the ever-evolving changes in technology.

Until this change, the board of directors could enter into bulk contracts to purchase television services (often called bulk cable contracts), but could not enter into bulk telephone, information or Internet service contracts. Such bulk contracts usually provided considerable savings to condominium unit owners over what single-unit or single-home contracts cost.

With the ability to bundle television services with phone, information and Internet services under new satellite and cable technologies, even greater savings can be obtained under a bundled bulk-rate contracts. However, the problem was that the applicable Florida Statute: Section 718.115 did not allow for any bulk services to be provided other than television.

Now with the change, board of directors of condominium associations can enter into communication services, information services and Internet services under bulk-rate contracts.

Communication services are defined as: “the transmission, conveyance, or routing of voice, data, audio, video, or any other information or signals, including cable services, to a point, or between or among points, by or through any electronic, radio, satellite, cable, optical, microwave, or other medium or method now in existence or hereafter devised, regardless of the protocol used for such transmission or conveyance. The term includes such transmission, or conveyance, or routing in which computer processing applications are used to act on the form, code, or protocol of the content for purposes of transmission, conveyance, or routing without regard to whether such service is referred to as voice-over Internet-protocol services or is classified by the Federal Communications Commission as enhanced or value-added.”

This catch up by the law to the new technologies that easily allows for bundled services to be provided at bulk rates can over time produce a rate windfall for unit owners. Now cable providers are competing directly with the phone companies and the satellite providers to get bundled bulk services into your buildings.

It is important to note that in switching from bulk-cable TV to bundled bulk-rate telecommunication services contracts, you have to make sure you properly terminate your existing bulk-cable TV contract before you can switch.

Many such existing contracts require you to notice the cable provider many months before the expiration of the contract. If you miss the termination notice date, the contract may automatically renew for another three, five, or even 10 years.

Sometimes, the same wiring can be used for the new bundled services. However, it may be more advantageous to rewire the building with new wiring that can better handle the load of bundled services (such as fiber optics) when switching to bundled contracts.

With the increased delivery of video services over the Internet (downloading movies and TV shows will most likely replace delivery by mail or store pick-up in the near future), lots of system bandwidth will be required to timely handle such downloading.

The buzz in the industry is that fiber optic service directly to the home is the only viable technology that will be able to handle the bandwidth needed.

DSL can handle a maximum of 50 Mbps per user. Cable can handle a maximum of 160 Mbps per user. Fiber optics can now handle 1 + Gbps per user now and should be able to handle 10 Gbps per user in three years.
Rob Samouce, a principal attorney in the Naples law firm of Samouce, Murrell, & Gal, P.A., concentrates his practice in the areas of community associations including condominium, cooperative and homeowners' associations, real estate transactions, closings and related mortgage law, general business law, estate planning, construction defect litigation and general civil litigation. This column is not based on specific legal advice to anyone and is based on principles subject to change from time to time. Those persons interested in specific legal advice on topics discussed in this column should consult competent legal counsel.