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Satellite Dish Rights

By Eric Villanueva, 2017 Summer Legal Intern

Eric VillanuevaOne thing that most people don’t know is that property owners, and tenants, have a federally protected right to install, maintain, or use an antenna to receive video programming. In 1996, Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to adopt the Over-the-Air Reception Devices rule, which limits restrictions that can be placed upon a satellite dish user. The rule, found at 47 C.F.R. Section 1.4000, applies to TV antennas, direct-to-home satellite dishes that are less than one meter in diameter (39.37 inches), and wireless cable antennas. The rule prevents restrictions that; (1) unreasonably delay or prevent the installation, maintenance or use of the antenna; (2) unreasonably increase the costs of the antenna; or (3) prevent the reception of a quality signal.

The right is not unlimited, however. The right to install an antenna only applies to areas where one has exclusive use or control, not common areas that are controlled or owned by a landlord, or a community association, and reasonable safety restrictions as well as restrictions for historic preservation can be imposed on the antenna user. The restrictions must be no more burdensome than necessary to accomplish their stated purpose. If there is a conflict, the burden is on the rule maker to prove that its restriction is valid. If you believe an antenna restriction is invalid, always try to resolve the dispute diplomatically first. If no agreement can be reached, then one can file a petition with the FCC.

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