Wicker, Blumenthal Support Regulatory Parity for Amateur Radio

Measure Would Accommodate Expansion of Emergency Communications Network in Rural Areas

July 12, 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., today introduced legislation titled the “Amateur Radio Parity Act,” which would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide regulatory parity for amateur radio operators.

“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.”

“Amateur radio operators provide an invaluable service to their communities by assisting local emergency communication efforts when disasters occur and main lines are down,” Blumenthal said. “This bipartisan measure ensures that operators have access to the tools they need to support our first responders when lives are at stake.”

Under current rules, a large segment of amateur radio operators are prohibited 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.

The bill includes a provision to allow amateur radio operators to negotiate with individual homeowner associations to install antennas that conform to the community’s aesthetic interests. The provision would preserve association control over a community’s appearance and would enable expansion of amateur radio networks in areas that were previously off-limits to operators.

The provision is the result of a consensus reached by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and the Community Associations Institute (CAI), each representing thousands of amateur radio operators and community associations in the United States respectively.

“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 three years. Their continuing support is critical to the success of our efforts,” ARRL President Rick Roderick said. Roderick also thanked Senator John Thune, R-S.D., Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, for “championing the Parity Act in the Senate since the beginning of our effort.”

“We are incredibly grateful to Senator Wicker for his sponsorship of the Amateur Radio Parity Act,” said ARRL Mississippi Section Manager Malcolm Keown of Vicksburg. “Senator Wicker has been a long and ardent supporter of the work Amateur Radio does for the community. He is always there when we need him so that we can be there when we are needed.”

In times of emergency, amateur radio operators provide communications network backup when first responder network repeaters and infrastructure are not working. During and immediately after Hurricane Katrina, amateur radio operators restored communications lines with FEMA, the Red Cross, and other disaster relief entities when the primary emergency response network was down.