During a January 12 Capitol Hill hearing, US House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chair Rep Greg Walden, W7EQI (R-OR), called the Amateur Radio Parity Act “a commonsense bill” and urged his colleagues to support it. H.R. 1301 was one of four telecoms bills that came before his panel.
“As a ham radio operator, I’m acutely aware of the passion that Amateur Radio operators have for their service,” Walden told the subcommittee. “Despite its widespread use and importance in times of emergencies, land-use restrictions in some areas have prioritized esthetics over the rights of hams. H.R. 1301 seeks to ensure that Amateur Radio operators get a fair shake and protection from unnecessary bans on their equipment by instructing the FCC to adopt rules to this end.”
Walden said he’s aware of suggestions that the bill would open the door to 40 foot towers in townhome backyards. “That’s not the case,” he assured his subcommittee colleagues. “Ham equipment can be as small as over-the-air digital television antennas becoming popular with ‘cord cutters.’ I’m sure that Amateur Radio operators’ communications deserve no less protection than access to prime time television.”
In his remarks, the bill’s sponsor, Rep Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), pointed out that most House members have a few hundred radio amateurs living in their districts. He explained that hams in some neighborhoods “are outright prohibited” from erecting antennas on their properties, “even as small as a 4 millimeter diameter wire that might be placed under an awning or laid flat against the house.”
Kinzinger cited Amateur Radio’s role in emergency communication support and noted the comments of FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, to the effect that when conventional communication systemss go down, Amateur Radio is often the last line of defense.
Kinzinger said his bill’s “reasonable accommodation standard” would not mandate placement, size, or esthetics regarding an outdoor antenna, leaving ham radio operators and homeowners associations to decide those issues.
“We just simply add the same standard that has been used successfully in municipal areas to other areas,” he concluded.
HR 1301 would direct the FCC to extend its rules relating to reasonable accommodation of Amateur Service communications to private land-use restrictions, such as deed covenants, conditions, and restrictions. The bill has attracted 116 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle. An identical US Senate measure, S. 1685, has attracted 3 cosponsors. It cleared the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation last November.
More information about the legislation is on the ARRL Amateur Radio Parity Act web page.