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FCC Preemption of Local Law

Only the FCC has jurisdiction over interference! Municipal zoning authorities, including local law enforcement officials, do not have that authority.

As with restrictive antenna ordinances, the FCC, through a directive from Congress, has preempted any concurrent state or local regulation of RFI pursuant to the provisions of §302(a) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended. The legal cite is: 47 USC §302(a) and it provides that the:

Commission may, consistent with the public interest, convenience, and necessity, make reasonable regulations (1) governing the interference potential of devices which in their operation are capable of emitting radio frequency energy by radiation, conduction, or other means in sufficient degree to cause harmful interference to radio communications; and (2) establishing minimum performance standards for home electronic equipment and systems to reduce their susceptibility to interference from radio frequency energy. Such regulations shall be applicable to the manufacture, import, sale, offer for sale, or shipment of such devices and home electronic equipment and systems, and to the use of such devices.

The legislative history of §302(a) provides explicitly that the Commission has exclusive authority to regulate radio frequency interference (RFI). In its Conference Report No. 97-765, Congress declared:

The Conference Substitute is further intended to clarify the reservation of exclusive jurisdiction to the Federal Communications Commission over matters involving RFI. Such matters shall not be regulated by local or state law, nor shall radio transmitting be subject to local or state regulation as part of any effort to resolve an RFI complaint.

The legal cite for this report is: H.R. Report No. 765, 97th Cong., 2d Sess. 33 (1982), reprinted at 1982 U.S. Code Cong. & Ad News 2277.

State laws and local ordinances that require amateurs to cease operations or incur penalties as a consequence of radio interference thus have been entirely preempted by Congress. This was written by then-FCC General Counsel Robert L. Pettit in a letter dated February 14, 1990 to ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD.


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