Posting-Frequency: 15 Days
Disclaimer: Approval for *.answers is based on form, not content.
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
PART SEVEN - Can Zoning Ordinances or Homeowner Associations prevent me from Installing a TVRO System? Whoa, Nellie! We'll tackle each part of this question separately as they require different answers. A zoning ordinance involves decisions made by local governments that includes, among other things, what types of structures can be placed on property of a particular zoning (commercial, residential, industrial; etc.). In the United States, the issue of the legality of a local government preventing the use of TVRO equipment, particularly large satellite dishes, was first addressed with the Federal Communications Commission's 1986 Preemption Order (51 Fed. Reg. 5519) issued on Feb. 14, 1986. In *extremely* simplified terms, the order states that local governments' zoning ordinances CANNOT unreasonably discriminate against the installation of satellite dishes. This FCC regulation has been further revisited with FCC IB Docket No. 95-180 and more recently with the Report And Order Further Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC IB Docket No. 96-78), adopted Feb. 29, 1996. Here is some sample text from the original 1986 Preemption Order (via FCC IB Docket No. 96-78): The broad mandate of Section 1 of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. § 151, to make communications services available to all people of the United States and the numerous powers granted by Title III of the Act with respect to the establishment of a unified communications system establish the existence of a congressional objective in this area. More specifically, the recent amendment to the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. § 705, creates certain rights to receive unscrambled and unmarketed satellite signals. These statutory provisions establish a federal interest in assuring that the right to construct and use antennas to receive satellite delivered signals is not unreasonably restricted by local regulation.4 Here's some more of the text: State and local zoning or other regulations that differentiate between satellite receive-only antennas and other types of antenna facilities are preempted unless such regulations a) have a reasonable and clearly defined health, safety or aesthetic objective; and b) do not operate to impose unreasonable limitations on, or prevent, reception of satellite delivered signals by receive-only antennas or to impose costs on users of such antennas that are excessive in light of the purchase and installation cost of the equipment. Regulation of satellite transmitting antennas is preempted in the same manner except that state and local health and safety regulation is not preempted.7 Subsequent text: Satellite antenna users who are dissatisfied with the results of any local zoning decision can use the standard adopted here in pursuing any legal remedies they might have. In addition, we would entertain requests for further action if it appears that local authorities are generally failing to abide by our standards. Any party requesting Commission review of a controversy will be expected to show that other remedies have been exhausted. Essentially, if a local government wants to impose strict guidelines in terms of TVRO systems and zoning ordinances, the TVRO system owner has every right to challenge the ordinance based on these FCC guidelines; more than likely, the local government would not win any legal case regarding a U.S. citizen's right to own a TVRO system. Now on to the second part of the question. Dealing with homeowner associations and strict covenants is a different matter entirely. Until very recently, the big dish satellite system owner had little or no legal recourse in terms of dealing with strict homeowner association contracts; it was felt that, by being part of a homeowners association, you were dealing with a private contract and agreement and that by agreeing to sign the contract, you acknowledged the terms of the agreement, and if the agreement was very strict about satellite dish ownership, well, that was too bad. You could take it or leave it. This is no longer entirely true. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 made sweeping revisions to the original Communications Act of 1934, in effect modernizing it. Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 eases some of the absolute power of restrictive covenants and homeowner associations over television reception equipment ownership and placement. Here is the entire text: SEC. 207. RESTRICTIONS ON OVER-THE-AIR RECEPTION DEVICES. Within 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission shall, pursuant to section 303 of the Communications Act of 1934, promulgate regulations to prohibit restrictions that impair a viewer's ability to receive video programming services through devices designed for over-the-air reception of television broadcast signals, multichannel multipoint distribution service, or direct broadcast satellite services. Unfortunately, this does little for TVRO system owners. Not having strong political lobbying backing it such as the broadcast industry and the cable TV industry, there is no TVRO-specific language in Section 207. Furthermore, in more recent clarification of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the FCC's Report and Order, Memorandum Opinion and Order, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (August 5, 1996) clearly states that Section 207 does NOT include larger C-Band satellite dishes. So for TVRO dish owners, only Ku-Band dishes "...that [are] designed to receive direct broadcast satellite service, including direct-to-home satellite services, that is one meter or less in diameter or is located in Alaska..." are protected under federal regulations. (Note that one meter is about 39 inches.) Here is the entire excerpt of the specfic Report and Order in regards to C-Band satellite dishes: 29. Several commenters and petitioners suggest that the statute also applies to classes of services related to TVBS, MMDS and DBS, and that our rule should include these related services. These commenters and petitioners contend that the terms "MMDS" and "DBS" should be interpreted broadly because Congress intended Section 207 to promote competition among video programming services by prohibiting restrictions that impair reception of all forms of video programming. For example, some commenters note that MMDS is really a form of multipoint distribution service (MDS), which is a general category of services using the same type of receiving antennas at different frequencies, and recommend that our rule preempt restrictions on the reception of any form of MDS, including MMDS, instructional television fixed service (ITFS), and local multipoint distribution service (LMDS). Other commenters and petitioners suggest that "DBS" also refers to a broad category of technologies. They recommend that we expand our definition of DBS to include other forms of satellite services including very small aperture terminals (VSAT) that transmit information, and medium-power Ku-band DTH satellite services. According to one commenter, the legislative history indicates that Congress intended Section 207 to apply to most reception of wireless video programming except systems using large antennas. 30. We believe that by directing the Commission to prohibit restrictions that impair viewers' ability to receive over-the-air signals from TVBS, MMDS and DBS services, Congress did not mean to exclude closely-related services such as MDS, ITFS, and LMDS. All of these services -- MDS, ITFS, and LMDS -- are similar from a technological and functional standpoint in that point-to-multipoint subscription video distribution service can be provided over each of them. We note that MMDS is the product of MDS technology, the first multipoint distribution service established by the Commission, and that ITFS is a service whose frequencies are available for transmission of MMDS. LMDS is a service that has been authorized to provide services comparable to MMDS as well as other types of services. The origins of all of these services can be traced to MDS. Thus, all of these related services should be treated the same for purposes of Section 207, and are properly included in the scope of Section 207's provision. We also determine, however, that VSAT, a commercial satellite service that may use satellite antennas less than one meter in diameter, is not within the purview of the statute because it is not used to provide over-the-air video programming. 31. We also believe that the statute can be construed to include medium-power satellite services using antennas of one meter or less that are used to receive over-the-air video programming, even though such services may not be technically defined as DBS elsewhere in the Commission's rules. Therefore, for purposes of implementing Section 207, we affirm our conclusion that DBS includes both high-power and medium-power satellite services using reception devices of one meter or less in diameter. 32. Because of the unique and peculiar characteristics applicable to reception of such services outside the continental United States, it is necessary to provide an exception for Alaska to the general size guidelines in our rule. In contrast with those portions of the continental United States (as well as Hawaii) that are at lower latitudes, DBS reception in Alaska requires larger antennas than those used in the lower part of the United States. The installation, maintenance, and use of these larger antennas in Alaska will be covered by the rules we adopt in this Report and Order, and governmental and nongovernmental restrictions impairing the installation, maintenance and use of these devices will be prohibited, even when the devices exceed one meter in diameter or diagonal measurement. This exception is limited, however, to antennas used to receive DBS service as defined by our rule, and will not apply to antennas that receive signals in the C-band. These larger antennas are subject to the more general satellite antenna preemption in Section 25.104 of our rules. Our decision to protect larger DBS antennas in Alaska than in the rest of the country is consistent with Commission policy to ensure that DBS is available to residents across the United States. As DBS service providers design their systems to comply with the Commission's requirement to serve Alaska, it may be possible to use smaller antennas that are closer to the size used in other parts of the country, and the need for this exemption may be obviated. Here is the source website of this text excerpt: http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Cable/Orders/1996_TXT/fcc96328.txt