On January 6, the FCC issued an order and Final Rule to update the Commission’s Over-the-Air Reception Devices (OTARD) rule. Better known in the industry as the FCC’s satellite dish rule, the limited expansion and changes to OTARD adopted by the FCC are aimed at speeding the deployment of wireless infrastructure across the country to help bridge the digital divide.
Since changes were first proposed in 2019, NMHC has led a coalition of real estate stakeholders to protect property rights by urging caution by the FCC when dealing with deployment of infrastructure on leased residential or commercial property.
NMHC and our coalition successfully made the case that the original proposed rule would run counter to the existing partnership model between property owners and service providers. Because of NMHC and the coalition’s advocacy, the FCC amended the proposed rule to include important language limiting the rights of providers and protecting the ability of property owners to freely negotiate the terms of antenna placements.
The updated rule and FCC comments express continued support for property owners’ ability and right to control the siting and access terms of infrastructure deployments and also recognize the importance of negotiated agreements. The key change made by the FCC is that the OTARD Rule now protects fixed wireless “hub or relay antennas.” These antennas are used to serve multiple customer locations rather than just the customer located at the site of the antenna. Importantly, the FCC addressed this important area of concern raised by NMHC and clarified that the antenna must serve the actual property where it is located. This will prevent providers from installing antennas solely for their own use without the consent of the property owner. By requiring the antenna must serve an end-user, the FCC also limited the ability of a rooftop lessee, such as a solar panel operator, to sublease space to a fixed wireless company to deploy its own infrastructure.
NMHC appreciates the work done by the FCC in putting forward a Final Rule that protects private property rights and emphasizes the importance of negotiating agreements between property owners and service providers to deploy broadband and other communications infrastructure in all markets and at all property types, including rural, low-income and senior housing.
NMHC will continue to analyze the Final Rule and provide updated member guidance in the near future. For more information on NMHC’s work on broadband and connectivity issues, click here.
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