In its latest misguided crusade against reason, the Federal Communications Commission is considering a proposal that would curtail affordable internet access for myriad Americans—particularly for those living in poverty.

It “would propose banning bulk billing arrangements by which tenants are required to pay for broadband, cable, and satellite service provided by a specific communications provider,” reads an FCC press release.

The FCC’s latest boogeyman—bulk-billing—is nothing more than a longstanding practice by which some landlords offer a suite of reduced-cost amenities to their tenants. For instance, apartment complexes sometimes include internet or cable TV in their rent as part of their amenities. When landlords enter into agreements with internet and cable TV companies to provide their tenants additional services, they are able to furnish them at discounted rates.

In my younger days, I lived in an apartment that had this arrangement. When negotiating with the leasing agent, I was told that basic Comcast cable TV was part of the amenities. While I couldn’t opt out, you couldn’t beat the price. It was something trifling, like 9 dollars a month. Likewise, my wife enjoyed Google Fiber internet at one of her apartments years ago for a nominal cost thanks to bulk-billing.

This is how landlords are able to set their businesses apart from others and attract customers based on their tailored services. Prospective tenants who are interested in broadband at a discounted rate might gravitate toward a property with bulk-billing, while those who aren’t interested can go elsewhere. They freely vote with their feet, as they should in a free market.

Georgia has long struggled with providing broadband access to its citizens. As of 2021, “9.1 percent of locations in Georgia remain unserved,” according to the Georgia Technology Authority. Matters have certainly improved since 2021. Yet this is still such a problem that the feds have lavished grants on Georgia to expand access, but internet affordability—especially for those living near or below the poverty line—has remained an ongoing problem. While there are some economical broadband internet plans, the average cost in metro Atlanta might range from around 50 to over 75 dollars per month. My current service costs about $100 a month, and it is worth it.

Internet access is more important than ever. It is necessary for many teleworkers to earn a living and children—who are either enrolled in virtual schooling or simply finishing their homework online—to learn. With pandemic learning loss still haunting students, any policy that would remove proven avenues to learning should garner plenty of skepticism. That’s what the FCC’s latest proposal would do: Make internet access more expensive—and possibly out of reach—for many renters, while simultaneously eliminating businesses’ abilities to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

The FCC’s beef with this business approach is a little mind-boggling. The FCC has considered the merits of bulk-billing numerous times, and has previously chosen not to meddle with these agreements. That may soon change because FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has made tackling bulk-billing one of her top priorities for a couple reasons. First, she is philosophically opposed to leases in which tenants aren’t able to opt out of bulk-billing agreements, and second, she believes that bulk-billing limits consumer choice.

While she probably wants to sincerely help, her qualms with bulk-billing border on ridiculous. She wants to end bulk-billing entirely, which would either force landlords to stop providing these services altogether or provide opt-outs for amenities like internet and TV, but why stop there? Landlords offer plenty of other non-negotiable amenities, but can you imagine demanding that they reduce your rent because you don’t want to pay the property’s pool maintenance, trash service, landscaping or pest service? That would be silly. These come as a package deal—much like internet and cable TV do sometimes.

Similarly, the FCC’s other complaint that bulk-billing reduces consumer choice and competition doesn’t quite ring true. There are numerous internet providers vying for customers’ loyalties, and internet companies compete to acquire deals with landlords. What’s more, prospective renters are empowered to pick and choose where they want to live, based on various properties’ prices, services and amenities, and in my experience, most properties don’t enter into bulk-billing agreements.

As often as people grouse about how much time Americans spend online, internet access has become an integral part of society. Whether we are discussing virtual learning, remote working, attending telehealth appointments or simply enjoying entertainment, it is a necessary part of everyday life for many. Despite that, broadband access in Georgia continues to be limited and internet costs are daunting to those struggling to make ends meet. Considering these realities, it seems unconscionable that the federal government would seek to limit its access by banning bulk-billing.