FCC Expands Restrictions on Local Regulations for Certain Broadband Antennas

January 19, 2021

A new Federal Communications Commission ruling gives the same protections to small antennas used for broadband services as antennas used for over-the-air reception.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Report and Order on Jan. 7 updating the rules for over-the-air reception devices (OTARD).

Under the new rules, hub and relay antennas are exempt from local regulations if they are used for the distribution of broadband-only fixed wireless services to multiple customer locations. The exemption holds even if the antenna is not primarily used for this purpose, as long as the antenna satisfies current OTARD conditions.

The rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register, but it will take effect 30 days after it is published.

New rule is limited

The revised rule is fairly limited and applies as long as: “(1) the antenna serves a customer on whose premises it is located, and (2) the service provided over the antenna is broadband-only.”

The current rules apply to antennas that primarily serve the customer on the premises, even if the antenna also serves multiple locations. The new rule eliminates the requirement that serving the customer on the premises be the “primary” purpose.

The revised rule does not affect a city’s ability to regulate antennas used for personal wireless services, including antennas used for both broadband and telecom services.

Provisions that remain the same

As with current regulations, the revised rule:

  • Limits local regulations only for OTARDs that are installed on property within the exclusive use or control of the antenna user where the user has a direct or indirect ownership or leasehold interest in the property on which the antenna is located.
  • Applies only to those antennas measuring 1 meter or less in diameter or diagonal measurement.
  • Includes exceptions for state, local, or private restrictions that are necessary for safety reasons or to protect historic properties, as long as the restrictions impose as little burden as possible and are applied in a nondiscriminatory way.

While the revised rule is limited in scope, the League will monitor its effect on the ability of cities to regulate OTARDs.

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