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                                                      Calendar No. 700
114th Congress     }                                    {       Report
 2d Session        }                                    {      114-400



                    AMATEUR RADIO PARITY ACT OF 2015


                              R E P O R T

                                 of the



                                S. 1685

                             together with

                            ADDITIONAL VIEWS


                December 9, 2016.--Ordered to be printed

                         U.S. GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING OFFICE 

69-010                         WASHINGTON : 2016                 
                    one hundred fourteenth congress
                             second session

                   JOHN THUNE, South Dakota, Chairman
 ROGER F. WICKER, Mississippi         BILL NELSON, Florida
 ROY BLUNT, Missouri                  MARIA CANTWELL, Washington
 MARCO RUBIO, Florida                 CLAIRE McCASKILL, Missouri
 KELLY AYOTTE, New Hampshire          AMY KLOBUCHAR, Minnesota
 TED CRUZ, Texas                      RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, Connecticut
 DEB FISCHER, Nebraska                BRIAN SCHATZ, Hawaii
 JERRY MORAN, Kansas                  ED MARKEY, Massachusetts
 DAN SULLIVAN, Alaska                 CORY BOOKER, New Jersey
 RON JOHNSON, Wisconsin               TOM UDALL, New Mexico
 DEAN HELLER, Nevada                  JOE MANCHIN, West Virginia
 CORY GARDNER, Colorado               GARY PETERS, Michigan
                       Nick Rossi, Staff Director
                 Adrian Arnakis, Deputy Staff Director
                    Jason Van Beek, General Counsel
                 Kim Lipsky, Democratic Staff Director
           Christopher Day, Democratic Deputy Staff Director
                 Clint Odom, Democratic General Counsel

                                                      Calendar No. 700
114th Congress     }                                    {       Report
 2d Session        }                                    {      114-400


                    AMATEUR RADIO PARITY ACT OF 2015


                December 9, 2016.--Ordered to be printed


Mr. Thune, from the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 1685]

    The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to 
which was referred the bill (S. 1685) to direct the Federal 
Communications Commission to extend to private land use 
restrictions its rule relating to reasonable accommodation of 
amateur service communications, having considered the same, 
reports favorably thereon without amendment and recommends that 
the bill do pass.

                          Purpose of the Bill

    The purpose of S. 1685 is to direct the Federal 
Communications Commission (FCC) to extend to private land use 
restrictions its rule relating to reasonable accommodation of 
amateur radio service communications. This would build on the 
FCC's previous actions to balance promoting amateur radio 
operations with the legitimate interests of local governments 
in local zoning matters. As with existing restrictions on local 
regulations, private land use restrictions would be required to 
reasonably accommodate amateur radio communications and 
constitute no more than the minimum practicable regulation to 
accomplish the legitimate purpose of such restrictions.

                          Background and Needs

    More than 700,000 amateur radio operators are currently 
licensed in the United States. Amateur radio service is a 
voluntary, noncommercial communications service used by persons 
of any age who are interested in radio technique solely with a 
personal aim and without financial interest. Individuals must 
obtain a license from the FCC and abide by FCC rules in order 
to operate an amateur radio station. Amateur radio 
communications take place across 27 spectrum frequency bands on 
a shared use basis.
    There is a strong and long-time Federal interest in 
promoting amateur radio communications, as evidenced by the 
comprehensive rules and regulations adopted by the FCC for 
amateur radio service. These rules, found in part 97 of title 
47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, establish procedures for 
station licensing, operator licensing, radio frequency 
allocations, technical standards required of amateur radio 
equipment, and practices required of amateur operators. The 
amateur radio service provides a reservoir of trained 
operators, technicians, and electronic experts who can be 
called on in times of national or local emergencies.
    In 1985, the FCC found that local zoning ordinances often 
unreasonably restricted amateur radio antennas in residential 
areas and thereby interfered with the strong Federal interest 
in supporting effective amateur radio communications. The 
policy implemented to protect both amateur radio service and 
legitimate local zoning purposes, known as ``PRB-1,'' 
established a three-part test for such regulations: (1) they 
must not preclude amateur service communications; (2) they must 
reasonably accommodate such communications, (3) and they must 
constitute the minimum practicable regulation to accomplish the 
State or local authority's legitimate purpose.
    The FCC has not extended this policy to private land use 
regulations in covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs;), 
noting that deed restrictions, covenants, and homeowner 
association regulations were private agreements that did not 
normally concern the FCC. The FCC has explained, however, 
``should Congress see fit to enact a statutory directive 
mandating the expansion of our reasonable accommodation policy, 
the Commission would expeditiously act to fulfill its 
obligation thereunder.''\1\ It is estimated that CC&Rs; today 
now cover more than 25 million housing units - nearly five 
times as many as when PRB-1 was adopted.
    \1\Federal Communications Commission Order on Reconsideration, RM 
8763, November 13, 2000, at
    Congress has previously directed the FCC to prohibit land 
use restrictions that impair installation of certain types of 
antenna by a private individual. In particular, section 207 of 
the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (47 U.S.C. 303 note) 
directed the FCC to promulgate regulations to prohibit 
restrictions on over-the-air television antennas and direct 
broadcast satellite dishes. The regulations adopted by the FCC 
included preemption of private restrictions.

                         Summary of Provisions

    S. 1685, the Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015, would direct 
the FCC to extend to private land use restrictions its rule 
relating to reasonable accommodation of amateur service 

                          Legislative History

    S. 1685 was introduced by Senators Wicker and Blumenthal on 
June 25, 2015. Senators Franken, Moran, and Coons are 
cosponsors. On November 18, 2015, the Committee met in open 
Executive Session, and, by a voice vote, ordered S. 1685 to be 
reported favorably without amendment.

                            Estimated Costs

    In accordance with paragraph 11(a) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate and section 403 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee provides the 
following cost estimate, prepared by the Congressional Budget 

S. 1685--Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015

    S. 1685 would direct the Federal Communication Commission 
(FCC) to amend regulations related to the height and dimensions 
of certain antenna structures. Under the bill, the regulations 
would be amended to prohibit private land-use restrictions from 
applying to antennas used for amateur radio communications if 
the restrictions prevent or impede those communications.
    Based on information from the FCC, CBO estimates that 
implementing S. 1685 would cost less than $500,000. Further, 
the agency is authorized to collect fees sufficient to offset 
its regulatory costs each year; therefore, CBO estimates that 
the net discretionary cost would be negligible, assuming 
appropriation actions consistent with that authority.
    Enacting S. 1685 would not affect direct spending or 
revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply. CBO 
estimates that enacting S. 1685 would not increase net direct 
spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 
10-year period beginning in 2027.
    S. 1685 contains no intergovernmental mandates as defined 
in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) and would not affect 
the budgets of state, local, or tribal governments.
    The bill contains a private-sector mandate as defined in 
UMRA because it would prohibit the application of private land-
use restrictions that are inconsistent with the requirements in 
the bill. The mandate would apply to private entities such as 
homeowners associations by limiting their ability to apply 
land-use restrictions on amateur radio communications. 
Homeowner association rules, mobile home park agreements, condo 
association bylaws, and deed covenants could be affected by the 
bill's prohibition.
    The cost of the mandate would be any costs associated with 
revising private land-use policies if necessary to comply with 
the bill. Such costs would probably be small. Therefore, CBO 
estimates that the aggregate cost of the mandate would fall 
below the annual threshold established in UMRA for private-
sector mandates ($154 million in 2016, adjusted annually for 
    The CBO staff contacts for this estimate are Kim Cawley 
(for federal costs) and Logan Smith (for private-sector 
mandates). The estimate was approved by H. Samuel Papenfuss, 
Deputy Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                           Regulatory Impact

    In accordance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee provides the 
following evaluation of the regulatory impact of the 
legislation, as reported:

                       number of persons covered

    The bill would apply to entities that establish, enforce, 
or are otherwise subject to private land use restrictions, 
including restrictive covenants, that relate to amateur service 

                            economic impact

    S. 1685 would not have an adverse impact on the Nation's 


    The bill would not have any adverse impact on the personal 
privacy of individuals.


    S. 1685 would not significantly increase paperwork 
requirements for individuals and businesses.

                   Congressionally Directed Spending

    In compliance with paragraph 4(b) of rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee provides that no 
provisions contained in the bill, as reported, meet the 
definition of congressionally directed spending items under the 

                      Section-by-Section Analysis

Section 1. Short title.

    This section would designate the short title of this bill 
as the ``Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015.''

Section 2. Findings.

    This section would find that there is a strong Federal 
interest in the effective performance of amateur radio stations 
by the more than 700,000 radio amateurs licensed by the FCC to 
operate in the United States. The section also would find that 
the FCC has sought guidance and direction from Congress with 
respect to the application of the FCC's limited preemption 
policy regarding amateur radio communications to private land 
use restrictions, including restrictive covenants.

Section 3. Accommodation of amateur service communications.

    This section would direct the FCC to amend its rules to 
prohibit a private land use restriction from applying to 
amateur service communications if the restriction precludes 
such communications, fails to reasonably accommodate such 
communications, or does not constitute the minimum practicable 
restriction to accomplish the legitimate purpose of the private 
entity seeking to enforce the restriction.

                   Additional Views of Senator Nelson

    While I appreciate the goals of S. 1685, I write to express 
my concerns about the approach taken by the legislation. I 
agree with my colleagues that amateur radio operators provide a 
key communications service in the nation. In fact, even the 
National Hurricane Center has acknowledged that amateur radio 
operators play an important role in collecting and 
disseminating information in emergency situations. Given this 
role that they play, I believe it is important for homeowner's 
and community associations to try to work cooperatively with 
the amateur radio community to find ways to further the 
continued availability of these services.
    That said, I have serious concerns about S. 1685. It is one 
thing to try to find a way to balance the interests of 
homeowner's associations and amateur radio operators. It is 
another to preempt the ability of those homeowner's 
associations to enforce privately-negotiated covenants and 
restrictions that have been entered into freely by the persons 
who voluntarily chose to live in those communities. In one fell 
swoop, this bill would effectively repeal parts of millions of 
private contracts and agreements relied upon by homeowners 
around the country.
    I know that the bill's sponsors believe that their 
legislation continues to preserve a measure of authority for 
homeowners' and other community associations to protect their 
interests. And I respect the fact that this legislation takes a 
far different and more limited approach compared to the Over-
the-Air Reception Device installation rules. But by requiring 
``reasonable accommodations'' and the ``minimum practicable 
restriction,'' this bill would tie homeowner's and community 
associations' hands and leave them open to potentially endless 
litigation. And there is a fear that the broadly worded 
language of the bill - that it applies to ``any private land 
use restriction'' - could be read to preempt a landlord's 
ability to place limits on a renter.
    It may be that another approach to this issue could gain my 
full support. But I will look very skeptically on any proposal 
that would limit the ability of homeowner's and community 
associations to prohibit the installation of amateur radio 
equipment in the communities governed by those associations. 
That includes an approach that would require those associations 
to allow amateur radio operators to install effective antennas, 
as some have suggested. What is an effective antenna to one 
operator is very different to another - and a boundless legal 
standard like that again threatens these associations with 
endless litigation.

                        Changes in Existing Law

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee states that the 
bill as reported would make no change to existing law.