Centennial Convention Provides Springboard for “Amateur Radio Parity Act,” HR.4969
The just-concluded ARRL National Centennial Convention in Hartford, Connecticut, helped to infuse some energy into efforts to line up co-sponsors for “The Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2014” — HR.4969. The measure, introduced in the US House of Representatives with bipartisan support in late June, would call on the FCC to apply the “reasonable accommodation” three-part test of the PRB-1 federal pre-emption policy to private land-use restrictions regarding antennas. The bill’s primary sponsor is Rep Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). It received initial co-sponsorship from Rep Joe Courtney (D-CT). Courtney visited the ARRL Centennial Convention on July 19 to speak with League officials and those attending the event.
At present PRB-1 only applies to state and municipal land-use ordinances, and the FCC has indicated that it will not act to provide the same legal protections from private land-use agreements — often called covenants, conditions, and restrictions or CC&Rs — without direction from Congress.
More and more convention visitors began sporting “Get Behind HR 4969” stickers the League supplied, as the event shifted into high gear. Behind the stickers is a grassroots effort to encourage members to contact their congressional representatives to seek their support as co-sponsors for HR.4969. The effort at the Convention to entice visitors to sign letters to lawmakers yielded some 1400 pieces of constituent correspondence that will be hand delivered to members of Congress, a July 19 Convention Legislative Update Forum was told. In addition another four co-sponsors have signed aboard the bill.
ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, said there already is precedent for the FCC to act. He explained that the Commission’s so-called Over-the-Air Receiving Device (OTARD) rules currently preempt private land-use agreements to permit the installation of television antennas and satellite dishes. He suggested that making the leap to reasonably accommodating outdoor Amateur Radio antennas is within the FCC’s regulatory scope, especially in light of the established strong federal interest in effective Amateur Radio communication.
“People don’t always get to choose where they live,” Imlay said, adding that CC&Rs enforced by homeowner’s associations may or may not permit outdoor antennas or may only allow them with approval. He said that by 1990, some 29 million US residents were affected by private land-use agreements. “In 2011, that number changed to 62.3 million people,” Imlay said.
The legislation's goal, he explained, is to compel homeowner’s associations to negotiate “reasonable accommodation” with an affected radio amateur. That could mean an outdoor wire antenna or something more elaborate; Imlay said it’s not the intent of the bill to specify any particular type of antenna.
HR.4969 has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep Greg Walden, W7EQI (R-OR), chairs that panel’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee, which will consider the measure. The League had approached Walden, who helped to engineer the current legislation.
“All [the bill] says is, take PRB-1, and apply it to all land-use regulation,” Imlay said. “This couldn’t be any simpler.”
Imlay said the bill faces opposition from the Community Associations Institute and an organization called Associa, which has suggested to Kinzinger that he “re-think” the bill.
“We need to get a lot of co-sponsors for this bill,” Imlay said.
A principal proponent of HR.4969 is ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, said, “We are the ones who are responsible for our own future.”
“The way to get things done is to be active on a grassroots level — small scale,” he told the gathering of about 50 interested radio amateurs. “This way you’re dealing with your representatives as a constituent.” Several forum attendees left early so they could visit the ARRL exhibit on the convention floor to obtain the necessary materials before the convention wrapped up.
ARRL Regulatory Affairs Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND, pointed out that the League has opened a HR.4969 page on the ARRL website. It contains information and resources for clubs and individuals wishing to support efforts to gain co-sponsors for the measure by contacting their members of Congress. It includes a sample letter to a member of Congress and a list of “talking points.” Lisenco recommended organizing small teams of knowledgeable and articulate radio amateurs to approach lawmakers one to one to plead their case.
Just prior to the Convention, ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN, released a video appeal to all radio amateurs to get behind a grassroots campaign to promote co-sponsorship of HR.4969.