Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

FCC Cable Service Bureau Preempts Local Satellite Law

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

FCC Cable Service Bureau Preempts Local Satellite Law

Article excerpt

Continuing an emerging pattern of federal telecommunications preemption of traditional local authority, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) preempted a Kansas town's local ordinance on July 23rd. In one of its first, precedent setting decisions regarding municipal authority to regulate satellite dishes, the FCC determined that the City of Meade, Kansas (1994 population 1,545) violated the FCC's rule governing Over-the-Air Reception Devices, such as satellite dishes, by enacting an ordinance which restricts the installation and placement of satellite television dishes that are one meter or less in diameter. In reaching its decision, the FCC assumed a greater level of authority over local land use and planning decisions historically made by local communities.

Star Lambert and the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association of America (SBCA) had originally filed jointly a request to the FCC to preempt Meade's ordinance. That Ordinance, No. 741, was adopted by the City of Meade, Kansas, to impose restrictions on the placement of video programming antennae. The industry was seeking to preempt local authority under the FCC's Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule. This rule, a part of section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, provides that "a restriction impairs installation, maintenance or use of a protected antenna if it (1) unreasonably delays or prevents installation, maintenance, or use; (2) unreasonably increases the cost of installation, maintenance or use; or (3) precludes reception of an acceptable quality signal."

The only exceptions to the rule are restrictions that are necessitated by safety or historic preservation. According to the companies, Ordinance 741 provided that "satellite receiving antennae could not be maintained or used within the City of Meade without a written permit from Meade. …

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