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Ham Radio Parity is about Antennas

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Ham Radio Station WD5B in California

Ham radio parity is a big deal for hams and shortwave listeners in America. Parity makes it easier to use outdoor antennas. Here’s how.

After years of effort by the A.R.R.L., the Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2017 is almost law. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously on January 23. Now, it moves on to the Senate.

Federal governments around the world license amateur radio operators. In the case of the U.S. by the Federal Communications Commission. Industry Canada does the job in my country. Hams know that getting a license is hard work.

However, over the past fifty years, putting up an antenna to enjoy the hobby has become the biggest challenge. Hams encounter three types of barriers.

  • Firstly, the licensing authority may have regulations. Typically these effect frequencies and power but not antennas. The exceptions might be RF safety and proximity to airports.
  • Secondly, local or state governments have various land use regulations. We are most familiar with these as zoning or by-laws. Local government imposes development restrictions and often requires building permits.
  • Thirdly, homeowners may enter into private contracts which restrict activities in the neighborhood. These are typically called home owners’ agreements or “covenants, conditions and restrictions.”

Radio hobbyists in most western countries feel the pain. Although regulations and restrictions can vary enormously from place to place. So, over the past fifty years, local governments and developers have placed increasing limits on the erection of antennas, towers and other things. I suppose this is to be expected of the NIMBY mentality. Some say developers encouraged CC&R on outdoor antennas so they could get franchise fees from cable television companies.

Ham Radio Parity – Seeking Reasonable Accommodation

Perhaps hard to believe for a “free market” country, antenna restrictions have become overbearing in the United States. This is especially true for private homeowner agreements.

However, since 1985, the Federal Communications Commission has told local governments to provide reasonable accommodation to persons seeking outdoor antennas. Its rule making preempts public restrictions imposed by local councils. But the FCC ruling did not address private contracts. Many, if not most communities are full of CC&R that you are forced to agree to when buying a house.

CC&R is the problem specifically addressed by the Amateur Radio Parity Act. This is long overdue. The Act seeks parity between private and public regulation of antennas. It puts these private contracts (deed restricted communities) on equal footing with public regulations. When passed, local homeowners associations will be required to provide citizens seeking antennas with a “reasonable accommodation”. It also requires these agreements to take a minimal rather than overbearing approach.


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