Amateur Radio Parity Act is Introduced in US Senate

The Amateur Radio Parity Act was introduced in the US Senate on July 12, marking another step forward for this landmark legislation. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are the Senate sponsors. The measure will, for the first time, guarantee all radio amateurs living in deed-restricted communities governed by a homeowner’s association (HOA) or subject to any private land use regulations, the right to erect and maintain effective outdoor antennas at their homes. The Senate bill, S. 1534, is identical to H.R. 555, which passed the US House of Representatives in January.

“Amateur Radio continues to be a critical part of our emergency communications operations,” Wicker said. “Mississippians learned firsthand after Hurricane Katrina how Amateur Radio operators can provide a resilient, distributed network to first responders and disaster relief organizations when other communications tools fail.”

Blumenthal noted that current rules prohibit “a large segment” of radio amateurs from installing functional outdoor antennas at their homes. “The bill would call on the FCC to apply its ‘reasonable accommodation’ standard evenly to all types of residential land use regulations, including in communities that now have restrictions blocking the installation of Amateur Radio antennas,” he pointed out.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai applauded the bill in late January, saying that it would “help Amateur Radio operators, and take several steps to promote public safety.”

ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, expressed the League’s appreciation to the Senate sponsors. “ARRL is grateful for the support of Senators Wicker and Blumenthal for sponsoring this important piece of legislation, and for advocating this bill for the past 3 years,” he said. “Their continuing support is critical to the success of our efforts.” President Roderick also thanked Senator John Thune (R-SD), who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, for “championing the Parity Act in the Senate since the beginning of our effort.”

The bill has enjoyed widespread, bipartisan support. In the 114th Congress, nearly 130 cosponsors signed onto the legislation in the House and the Senate. The legislation also strikes a carefully crafted balance with HOAs, ensuring that they have a voice in the process. As the result of a consensus reached by ARRL and the Community Associations Institute (CAI), the measure includes a provision to allow Amateur Radio operators to negotiate with individual HOAs to install antennas that conform to the community’s aesthetic interests. This provision would preserve association control over a community’s appearance while enabling installation of antennas that ensure Amateur Radio communication in areas previously off limits.

In a statement, ARRL said it looks forward to working with the bipartisan leadership of the Senate and the Commerce Committee to help move the Wicker-Blumenthal legislation through the Senate and to the President’s desk.