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, HR 4969 - 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.
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, HR 4969 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) are the prohibitions and limitations placed on properties by builders or home-owner associations (HOAs) which prevent licensed Amateurs from erecting even modest antennas.
HR 4969 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 first step in this process is to garner support among members of the US House of Representatives. Each ARRL member needs to contact their member of the US House to state their support for HR 4969 and to ask their Representative to please sign on as a co-sponsor for the bill.
If you have an existing relationship with your Congressperson, try to arrange a meeting with them (usually at their district offices) to express your support for HR 4969.
Write your member of the US House Representatives and ask them to become a co-sponsor for HR 4969. A sample letter can be found here
When addressing the letter to your Representative, make certain you have included their name and mailing address in the header. add your full name, callsign, and address to the bottom of the letter, and please make certain you have signed your letter. Letters that have not been signed have little benefit.
If you wish to write and sign your letter then send the signed copy to the ARRL as an attachment (PDF or scan) to an email, please send them to email@example.com with the words "HR 4969 letter" in the SUBJECT field of the email.
At this time we are asking that you only contact your representative in the US House of Representaives. This bill has not been introduced into the US Senate yet so we are not asking you to contact your Senators right now.
To expedite delivery of your letter once you have printed it out and signed it, you should mail your letter to:
Attn: HR 4969 letter campaign
225 Main St
Newington, CT 06111
We are frequently asked why the ARRL asks that letters be mailed to ARRL for delivery instead of simply mailing them directly to the Congressional offices. The answer is two-fold. First, since the 9/11 attacks and subsequent security threats, all incoming mail to Congressional offices is first diverted to a holding area outside of Washington DC. Once at that facility it undergoes a series of scans to test for a variety of problems. Only after it passes the security tests is it forwarded on to Capitol Hill for delivery. The delay in delivery is generally in the 5-7 week range. By mailing the letters to the ARRL, we are able to have the letters hand-delivered to the various congressional offices in a timely manner.
The second reason is just as important. When our Washington team delivers letters to a Congressional office, it provides them an opportunity for at least a brief face-to-face meeting with some of the key staff members in each Congressional office they visit. Each in-person meeting is another opportunity for the ARRL’s story to be told – and is another chance to answer questions that may arise.
Most Congressional offices do provide some type of on-line email or web-based form for submitting comments. These too have their place in helping ensure our message is conveyed personally. Just remember when contacting your Congressperson to be Professional, Authentic, and Personal!
Keep these key points in mind if writing a letter to or speaking with your Member of Congress one of the legislative assistants. They will help focus the discussion on HR 4969 and why it is important to you:
► 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.
► Therefore, we seek cosponsors for H.R. 4969, a Bill that 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 September 18, 2014, the additional co-sponsors are: