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Grassroots Campaign Underway to Promote Co-Sponsorship of “Amateur Radio Parity Act”

07/16/2014

A grassroots effort is underway to encourage radio amateurs to promote co-sponsorship of HR.4969, the Amateur Radio Parity Act. The measure, introduced in the US House with bipartisan support on June 25, 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), and it has initial co-sponsorship from Rep Joe Courtney (D-CT). With Congress going on its August recess in a few weeks, the campaign is focusing on contacting Members of Congress or their staffers at or through their district offices. 

“This is the ideal time for you to develop small teams of constituents to approach members of Congress in their district offices,” said ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, a principal proponent of HR.4969. “Ideally, you’d want no more than three members to go to a meeting with a Member of Congress or top staff members. These need to be active, articulate individuals who present themselves well.” Getting additional lawmakers to sign on as HR.4969 cosponsors is essential to the bill’s success. Individual radio amateurs or clubs also may wish to e-mail or write their representatives to urge them to cosponsor the bill.

The primary point to convey is that the greatest threat to Amateur Radio volunteer emergency and public service communication is restrictions that prohibit the installation of outdoor antenna systems. Nearly 30 years ago the FCC, in adopting its PRB-1 policy, acknowledged a “strong federal interest” in supporting effective Amateur Radio communication. In the intervening years, PRB-1 has helped many amateurs to overcome zoning ordinances that unreasonably restricted Amateur Radio antennas in residential areas. The 11-page PRB-1 FCC Memorandum Opinion and Order is codified at § 97.15(b) in the FCC Amateur Service rules, giving the regulation the same effect as a federal statute. After the Telecommunications Act of 1996 ordered the FCC to enact regulations preempting municipal and private land-use regulation over small satellite dishes and TV broadcast antennas, the FCC further acknowledged that it has jurisdiction to preempt private land-use regulations that conflict with federal policy. The Commission has indicated, however, that it won’t extend PRB-1 to private land-use regulation unless Congress instructs it to do so.

If HR.4969 passes the 113th Congress, it would compel the FCC, within 120 days of the Bill’s passage, to amend the Part 97 Amateur Service rules to apply PRB-1 coverage to include homeowners’ association regulations and deed restrictions, often referred to as “covenants, conditions, and restrictions” (CC&Rs). At this point, PRB-1 only applies to state and local zoning laws and ordinances. 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.

Among other tips, Lisenco advises groups setting up in-person visits with representatives to pick a leader, listen carefully, and leave behind information that supports your primary points plus a business card. “Business cards are a big thing in DC,” he pointed out. “Make certain to take them when going to DC or a district office.”

“This isn’t rocket science, but it does take planning and the ability to state your case succinctly in no more than 15 minutes,” Lisenco said. Delegations should follow up with a thank you note within 1 day and a telephone call 1 week later.

An information sheet on HR.4969, a list of "talking points," and a sample constituent letter are available at http://www.arrl.org/hr-4969.



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