Webinar Helps to Build Ham Community Cohesion, Momentum for H.R. 4969
An August 13 webinar on “The Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2014” — H.R. 2014 — attracted some 450 online participants who wanted to learn more about the proposed legislation and how they could get involved in speeding its passage. US Rep Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) introduced H.R. 4969 in June, with US Rep Joe Courtney (D-CT) as its first co-sponsor. This bipartisan initiative would direct the FCC to apply the “reasonable accommodation” three-part test of the PRB-1 federal pre-emption policy regarding antennas to private land-use restrictions (CC&Rs). The ARRL Atlantic Division sponsored the webinar, and Director Bill Edgar, N3LLR, served as moderator.
“I think the webinar really helped to bring members together on H.R. 4969,” Edgar said afterward. More than 900 registered for the event. During the webinar, ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, and ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, discussed the measure and what it would mean for ARRL members and the Amateur Radio community, and explained how individuals could help. Edgar said he’s heard a lot of positive feedback from members, who thanked his Division for putting on the webinar and said they were going to assist the campaign by contacting their members of Congress.
Lisenco said this week that 17 co-sponsors now have signed on to H.R. 4969, and he’s confident that several more will add their names to the list once Congress reconvenes after its August recess. He said the webinar helped members of the Amateur Radio community to realize that they must become “activists” in order to make things happen.
“The overwhelming majority of [ARRL] members have been extremely positive,” he said this week, although he conceded that some radio amateurs do not favor H.R. 4969. “You’re going to find people who are against it, because that’s their political philosophy,” he said, “but a lot more want to send letters or visit their representatives. It’s just a matter of getting people motivated.”
Lisenco sees H.R. 4969 as a “mom-and-apple-pie” issue. “It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “‘Reasonable accommodation.’ How can you say ‘no’ to that? The more people who see how simple this is, the greater the likelihood that it will get done.” Getting the bill passed is a matter of building consensus, and he believes that this is the time to act. “If we don’t do it now, the opportunity may not present itself again very soon,” he said
Lisenco said that most of the questions during the webinar came from those who already live in deed-restricted communities and wanted to know how H.R. 4969 might affect them. He pointed out that some 65 million Americans live in deed-restricted households, and that number is growing. As he explained, the measure would give hams in deed-restricted communities an opportunity to negotiate in good faith with homeowners associations to arrive at a “reasonable accommodation” of their antenna requirements — nothing more.
“Everybody wants the biggest antenna they can put up,” he said, “but you have to be practical, you have to be pragmatic. Folks who have not had an opportunity to put up any antenna will be happy with any antenna they can get.” Each community is different, he said, and the bill does not specify any particular types of antennas.
Lisenco said that with many members of Congress on vacation, it’s difficult to get appointments to meet with them to seek their support. Some 1500 members from all over the US signed letters at the ARRL National Centennial Convention urging their representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 4969. Another 500 or so letters went out to members of Congress a week later. But, Lisenco added, face-to-face meetings between members of Congress or their staff members and constituents have proven to be the most successful approach.
Lisenco anticipates that activity to gain additional support for the measure will ramp up again next month.