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Q: What are 'fixed wireless signals'?


A: 'Fixed wireless signals' are any commercial non-broadcast communications signals transmitted via wireless technology to and/or from a fixed customer location. Examples include wireless signals used to provide telephone service or high-speed Internet access to a fixed location. This definition does not include, among other things, AM/FM radio, amateur ('HAM') radio (but see 47 C.F.R. §97.15), Citizens Band ('CB') radio, and Digital Audio Radio Services ('DARS') signals.


Q: Does the rule apply to hub or relay antennas?


A: The rule applies to 'customer-end antennas' which are antennas placed at a customer location for the purpose of providing service to customers at that location. The rule does not cover antennas used to transmit signals to and/or receive signals from multiple customer locations.


Q: What types of restrictions are prohibited?


A: The rule prohibits restrictions that impair a person's ability to install, maintain, or use an antenna covered by the rule. The rule applies to state or local laws or regulations, including zoning, land-use or building regulations, private covenants, homeowners' association rules, condominium or cooperative association restrictions, lease restrictions, or similar restrictions on property within the exclusive use or control of the antenna user where the user has an ownership or leasehold interest in the property. A restriction impairs if it: (1) unreasonably delays or prevents use of; (2) unreasonably increases the cost of; or (3) precludes a person from receiving or transmitting an acceptable quality signal from an antenna covered under the rule. The rule does not prohibit legitimate safety restrictions or restrictions designed to preserve designated or eligible historic or prehistoric properties, provided the restriction is no more burdensome than necessary to accomplish the safety or preservation purpose.


Q: What types of restrictions unreasonably delay or prevent viewers from using an antenna?     Can an antenna user be required to obtain prior approval before installing his antenna?


A: A local restriction that prohibits all antennas would prevent viewers from receiving signals, and is prohibited by the Commission's rule. Procedural requirements can also unreasonably delay installation, maintenance or use of an antenna covered by this rule. For example, local regulations that require a person to obtain a permit or approval prior to installation create unreasonable delay and are generally prohibited. Permits or prior approval necessary to serve a legitimate safety or historic preservation purpose may be permissible.  Although a simple notification process might be permissible, such a process cannot be used as a prior approval requirement and may not delay or increase the cost of installation.  The burden is on the association to show that a notification process does not violate our rule.


Q: What is an unreasonable expense?


A: Any requirement to pay a fee to the local authority for a permit to be allowed to install an antenna would be unreasonable because such permits are generally prohibited. It may also be unreasonable for a local government, community association or landlord to require a viewer to incur additional costs associated with installation. Things to consider in determining the reasonableness of any costs imposed include: (1) the cost of the equipment and services, and (2) whether there are similar requirements for comparable objects, such as air conditioning units or trash receptacles. For example, restrictions cannot require that expensive landscaping screen relatively unobtrusive DBS antennas. A requirement to paint an antenna so that it blends into the background against which it is mounted would likely be acceptable, provided it will not interfere with reception or impose unreasonable costs.


Q: What restrictions prevent a viewer from receiving an acceptable quality signal?  Can a homeowners association or other restricting entity establish enforceable preferences for antenna locations?


A: For antennas designed to receive analog signals, such as TVBS, a requirement that an antenna be located where reception would be impossible or substantially degraded is prohibited by the rule. However, a regulation requiring that antennas be placed where they are not visible from the street would be permissible if this placement does not prevent reception of an acceptable quality signal or impose unreasonable expense or delay. For example, if installing an antenna in the rear of the house costs significantly more than installation on the side of the house, then such a requirement would be prohibited. If, however, installation in the rear of the house does not impose unreasonable expense or delay or preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal, then the restriction is permissible and the viewer must comply.
The acceptable quality signal standard is different for devices designed to receive digital signals, such as DBS antennas, digital broadband radio service antennas, digital television ('DTV') antennas, and digital fixed wireless antennas. For a digital antenna to receive or transmit an acceptable quality signal, the antenna must be installed where it has an unobstructed, direct view of the satellite or other device from which signals are received or to which signals are to be transmitted. Unlike analog antennas, digital antennas, even in the presence of sufficient over-the-air signal strength, will at times provide no picture or sound unless they are placed and oriented properly. 


Q: Can a restriction limit the number of antennas that may be installed at a particular location?


The Commission’s rule covers the antennas necessary to receive service.  Therefore, a local rule may not, for example, allow only one antenna if more than one antenna is necessary to receive the desired service. 


Q: Are all restrictions prohibited?


A: No. Clearly-defined, legitimate safety restrictions are permitted even if they impair installation, maintenance or use provided they are necessary to protect public safety and are no more burdensome than necessary to ensure safety. Examples of valid safety restrictions include fire codes preventing people from installing antennas on fire escapes; restrictions requiring that a person not place an antenna within a certain distance from a power line; and installation requirements that describe the proper method to secure an antenna. The safety reason for the restriction must be written in the text, preamble or legislative history of the restriction, or in a document that is readily available to antenna users, so that a person who wishes to install an antenna knows what restrictions apply. Safety restrictions cannot discriminate between objects that are comparable in size and weight and pose the same or a similar safety risk as the antenna that is being restricted.
Restrictions necessary for historic preservation also may be permitted even if they impair installation, maintenance or use of the antenna. To qualify for this exemption, the property may be any prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure or object included in, or eligible for inclusion on, the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, restrictions necessary for historic preservation must be no more burdensome than necessary to accomplish the historic preservation goal. They also must be imposed and enforced in a non-discriminatory manner, as compared to other modern structures that are comparable in size and weight and to which local regulation would normally apply.


Q: How does the rule apply to restrictions on radiofrequency (RF) exposure from antennas that have the capability to transmit signals?  Can a local restriction require professional installation of receive-only antennas?


A: All transmitters regulated by the Commission, including the customer-end fixed wireless antennas (either satellite or terrestrial) covered under the amended rule, are required to meet the applicable Commission guidelines regarding RF exposure limits. The limits established in the guidelines are designed to protect the public health with a large margin of safety. These limits have been endorsed by federal health and safety agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration. The Commission requires that providers of fixed wireless service exercise reasonable care to protect users and the public from RF exposure in excess of the Commission's limits. In addition, as a condition of invoking protection under the rule from government, landlord, and association restrictions, a provider of fixed wireless service must ensure that customer-end antennas are labeled to give notice of potential RF safety hazards posed by these antennas.
It is recommended that antennas that both receive and transmit signals be installed by professional installers to maximize effectiveness and minimize the possibility that the antenna will be placed in a location that is likely to expose subscribers, their families, or others in the area  to radiation from the transmit signal at close proximity and for an extended period of time. In general, associations, landlords, local governments and other restricting entities may not require professional installation for receive-only antennas, such as one-way DBS satellite dishes. However, local governments, associations, and property owners may require professional installation for transmitting antennas based on the safety exception to the rule. Such safety requirements must be: (1) clearly defined; (2) based on a legitimate safety objective (such as bona fide concerns about RF radiation) which is articulated in the restriction or readily available to antenna users; (3) applied in a non-discriminatory manner; and (4) no more burdensome than necessary to achieve the articulated objectives.


For additional information about the Commission's RF exposure limits, please visit http://www.fcc.gov/oet/rfsafety or call the RF Safety Information Line at 202-418-2464.




December 2007

FCC Satellite Dish Q & A