Amateur Radio Parity Act - End of Year Status
With the adjournment of the 113th Congress in December 2014, it is time to assess where the Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2014 stands. The bill, known as HR 4969, did not receive consideration by the full House of Representatives, but that does not mean the bill has been defeated. In fact, right up to the final gavel, members of the House were stepping up to sign-on as co-sponsors. Including the original sponsor, Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, 70 Representatives signed on in support of the bill in the six-months following its introduction into the House.
Realistically, very few bills succeed the first time. However, the bipartisan support garnered by this bill - 44 Republicans and 26 Democrats - is a good measure that we can be successful. As with many things, it takes time. The adjournment of the 113th Congress means HR 4969 “dies” in committee. While we are disappointed, there is every reason to be hopefully when the new Congress assembles in January 2015.
Our DC team expects the billl to be reintroduced when the 114th Congress convenes in January. In addition, a member of the US Senate has been in contact about introducing the bill into that body. That is another sign of progress!
So a huge and grateful THANK YOU to the thousands of ARRL members who stepped up to support HR 4969. You are leading this effort! The bill will receive a different number when introduced but the goals will be the same. At that time, we will be asking the ARRL membership to renew their efforts to with their members of Congress.
Amateur Radio Parity Act
In June, 2014 with Congressman Adam Kinzinger (IL-16) as the sponsor and Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2) as co-sponsor, the "Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2014" - was introduced into the 113th Congress. This bipartisan effort would direct the FCC to extend the "reasonable accommodation" provisions for Amateur Radio antennas to include all types of land-use regulation, including deed restrictions and restrictive covenants. It was assigned the bill number of HR 4969 for the 113th Congress.
Most importantly, it will ensure that every ham in the US, regardless of the community they live in, will have the opportunity to practice their avocation from their own homes without breaking any rules or fear of reprisal
If enacted it would direct the FCC to extend the the reasonable accomodation protections to those amateurs who are living in deed-restricted communities. Known as "CC&Rs" (covenants, conditions and restrictions) these are the prohibitions and limitations placed on properties by builders or home-owner associations (HOAs) which prevent licensed Amateurs from erecting even modest antennas.
The Amateur Radio Parity Act would not give Amateurs "carte blanche" to do whatever they wished. It would require HOAs and other private land use regulations to extend reasonable accommodation to Amateurs wishing to erect antennas.
► The American Radio Relay League, Incorporated (ARRL) is the representative of Amateur Radio in the United States. There are more than 720,000 Amateur Radio operators licensed by the FCC. ARRL’s membership of approximately 170,000 includes the most active and dedicated Amateur Radio operators.
► Radio Amateurs (hams) provide, on a volunteer basis, public service, emergency, and disaster relief communications using radio stations located in their residences. Their services cost taxpayers nothing. They are provided at no cost to any served agency or to any government entity. FEMA has stated that when Amateur Radio operators are needed in an emergency or disaster, they are really needed.
► Served agencies include the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Defense. Disaster relief planning exercises and emergency communications certification courses guarantee trained operators throughout the United States.
► Land use restrictions that prohibit the installation of outdoor antenna systems are the largest threat to Amateur Radio emergency and public service communications. They are escalating quickly and exponentially. An outdoor antenna is critical to the effectiveness of an Amateur Radio station. Typically, all Amateur Radio antennas are prohibited in residential areas by private land use regulations. In other instances, prior approval of the homeowners’ association is required for any outdoor antenna installation. However, there are no standards to determine whether or not approval will be granted by the homeowners’ association.
► Twenty-nine years ago, the FCC found that there was a “strong Federal interest” in supporting effective Amateur Radio communications. FCC also found and that zoning ordinances often unreasonably restricted Amateur Radio antennas in residential areas. The FCC, in a docket proceeding referred to as “PRB-1” created a three-part test for municipal regulations affecting Amateur Radio communications. State or local land use regulations: (A) cannot preclude Amateur Radio communications; (B) must make “reasonable accommodation” for Amateur Radio communications; and (C) must constitute the “minimum practicable restriction” in order to accomplish a legitimate municipal purpose.
►The FCC did not extend this policy to private land use regulations at the time. However, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 ordered the FCC to enact regulations that preempted municipal and private land use regulation over small satellite dish antennas and television broadcast antennas in residences. The FCC found that: (a) it does have jurisdiction to preempt private land use regulations that conflict with Federal policy; and (b) that private land use regulations are entitled to less deference than municipal regulations. This is because the former are premised exclusively on aesthetics considerations.
► ARRL repeatedly requested that FCC revisit its decision and apply its policy equally to all types of land use regulations which unreasonably restrict or preclude volunteer, public service communications. FCC said that it would do so upon receiving some guidance from Congress in this area.
► The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, in an Order released November 19, 1999, stated that the Commission “strongly encourage(s)” homeowner’s associations to apply the “no prohibition, reasonable accommodation, and least practicable regulation” three-part test to private land use regulation of Amateur radio antennas:
“Notwithstanding the clear policy statement that was set forth in PRB-1 excluding restrictive covenants in private contractual agreements as being outside the reach of our limited preemption …we nevertheless strongly encourage associations of homeowners and private contracting parties to follow the principle of reasonable accommodation and to apply it to any and all instances of amateur service communications where they may be involved.” Order, DA 99-2569 at ¶ 6.
► Pursuant to the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, the FCC conducted a study on “the uses and capabilities of Amateur Radio Service communications in emergencies and disaster relief.” It submitted to the House and Senate a Report on the findings of its study. The FCC docket proceeding created an impressive record demonstrating the severe and pervasive impact of private land use regulations on Amateur Radio emergency communications. The record in the docket proceeding justifies the even application of FCC’s balanced, limited preemption policy to all types of land use regulation of Amateur Radio antennas. The FCC said, in effect, that should Congress instruct FCC to do so, it would expeditiously extend the policy.
► The bill would provide for regulatory parity and uniformity in land use regulations as they pertain to Amateur Radio communications. It would do so by applying the existing FCC “reasonable accommodation” policy formally to all types of land use regulation. We would ask for your support of this Bill.
As of December 11, 2014, the additional co-sponsors are: