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The New Way To Provide Internet In Multifamily Communities That Benefits Both Residents And Property Owners


Today’s multifamily residents have much higher connectivity expectations than they used to. Property managers are under greater pressure than ever to provide fast, reliable internet access as people continue to work from home and need to connect a growing number of smart devices.

As a result, a new solution has been gaining traction: managed WiFi. This solution is rapidly becoming the way to create a digital foundation for smart communities, said Mariam Rogers, director of multifamily sales at smart access control provider Brivo.

Managed WiFi is an outsourced wireless network. It operates in the cloud, which means there is no hardware for a property management team or a resident to operate. A traditional internet supply transmits the network from a single point in a home, or multiple points in a business; managed WiFi transmits from multiple points throughout a building. This allows residents or visitors to stay connected to the internet across an entire property.

This seamless connection means that property owners will provide residents with connectivity in a different way. Rather than each apartment having its own connection, residents will have their own access to the community WiFi that is present across the property.

Managed WiFi provides an answer to a challenge that has recently become essential for a property manager to address: how to best comply with a new Federal Communications Commission ruling. In February, the FCC issued a Report and Order Ruling entitled Improving Competitive Broadband Access to Multiple Tenant Environments. This ruling makes it much harder for landlords of multifamily communities to have an exclusive contract with an internet service provider.

“The old way was to set up an exclusive contract with an internet service provider, which a resident was then forced to choose,” Brivo Senior Director Jeff Morrison said. “The new law says these contracts take away choice from a resident. The industry realized they needed a solution. You can’t support technology that residents need today without a strong digital backbone.”

Even before the law, however, the use of managed WiFi was growing in popularity due to the benefits it can provide, Rogers said. First, it can create an enhanced resident experience. Residents immediately have access to the internet as soon as they arrive in the community.

“Each resident has their own turnkey service and can move throughout a property with smooth network coverage,” she said. “Also, because people are at home more often, they need better connectivity. In comparison, connecting via cellular can be unreliable.”

There is a benefit of having no hardware to manage for the property managers as well, Morrison said. They won’t have to manage hardware in hundreds of smart apartments, which may need to be replaced at some point — or could be unplugged by a resident. Smart technology will also run more efficiently on managed WiFi.

“Brivo’s smart access control system doesn’t rely on using managed WiFi, but it facilitates us and a lot of Internet of Things providers,” he said. “It gives new foundations to ride on, that allow smooth integration and use across a community. A smart provider can go 100% on WiFi as a communication protocol, which creates an environment for the owner or manager that is much easier to manage long-term.”

A second benefit of managed WiFi is the opportunity to create a revenue stream for a property manager, Morrison said. 

“A landlord can buy in bulk from one provider, say a gigabyte, and resell bandwidth to residents at a market rate,” he said. “Alternatively, they can give it as an amenity to residents as part of a service charge.”

A third, and crucial, benefit is that installing managed WiFi can future-proof a community, Rogers said. As more IoT devices and smart technology emerges, the burden on bandwidth will increase. Devices that manage and report on energy use, for example, will increasingly be installed.

“Adopting in-building IoT sensors and systems to drive net-zero-carbon goals will become common, if not required in the U.S.,” she said. “Installing managed WiFi now is the only means to provide pervasive, property-wide connectivity for all of these products: from EV charging stations, to smart thermostats, smart appliances, robot vacuums, asset tracking sensors, and on and on. You need to future-proof your property with a blanket of reliable, high-speed internet connectivity and this is the solution."

Increasingly, residents are going to want to live within a smart community, Rogers said, as they realize what is possible with smart devices. While systems can be retrofitted, she said, a property manager who installs managed WiFi and smart technologies from the beginning will quickly see the benefits.

This article was produced in collaboration between Brivo and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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