BE Informed No. 1.2
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B. Johnston W3BE
Q. How tall
can my antenna be?
From a strictly communications standpoint, Section 97.15(b) authorizes you to erect your antenna at a height sufficient to accommodate amateur service communications. The maximum
height of the amateur service is 50 kilometers. Above that, it is the domain of our amateur-satellite service.
Before you start erecting your 31-mile-high
antenna tower, however, you should understand that the practical height of your antenna depends upon several factors, not
the least of which are your resources: financial, time, energy and know-how. Then there are restrictions for aviation safety,
environmental protection, quiet zones, and locality concerns for safety and appearances. There are also the matters of arrangements that you have made with the
owners of the land on which your station antenna stands or the entity from whom you obtained the land. So, that 50 km ceiling
is the very least of your concerns.
What are amateur service communications?
A. They are Section 97.3(a)(4) radio transmissions for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that
is, duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.
Q. What are the restrictions that could limit the
height of my antenna?
The location of your antenna structure determines whether any of the following apply to its height above ground level:
1. Section 97.15(b) says that the owner of an antenna structure more than 200 feet above ground level at the site must notify the FAA and register
with the FCC.
2. Section 97.15(b) says that the owner of an antenna structure located near a public use airport must notify the FAA and register with the FCC.
3. Section 97.13 says there are restrictions that apply to land of environmental importance or significant in American history, architecture
or culture, places within a mile of an FCC monitoring facility and places where your station could cause possible harmful
human exposure to RF electromagnetic fields. Your antenna is a component of your station.
Q. What are the aviation safety restrictions on
A. Section 97.15(a), in effect, says that unless the antenna is near or at a public use airport, the antenna may be 200 feet above ground level at the site. Otherwise, the Federal Aviation Administration must be notified
and the antenna structure must be registered with the FCC. The details are in Part 17. You may have to mark your tower with specified painting and lighting to gain the necessary approval.
Q. How close to the airport can my antenna be before being subject to the Part 17 restrictions?
A. It begins at about four miles from
the nearest runway. Section 17.7(b) describes an imaginary surface above which notification and registration are required. It extends outward and upward at one
of the following slopes:
a large airport (any runway length more than 3,200-feet), the slope is 100 to 1 for a horizontal distance of 20,000-feet from
the nearest point on the nearest runway.
For a small airport (longest runway length no more than 3,200-feet), the slope is 50 to 1 for a horizontal
distance of 10,000-feet from the nearest point on the nearest runway.
For a heliport, the slope is 25:1 for a horizontal distance of 5,000-feet from the
nearest landing and takeoff area.
My neighbor has an airplane landing strip on his property. Must I give notification to the FAA?
A. Section 17.7(d)(1) says that notification is required where the airport is available for public use and is listed in the Airport Directory of
the current Airman’s Information Manual or in either the Alaska or Pacific Airman’s Guide and Chart Supplement.
Q. Can my state or local government limit the height
of my antenna?
Yes, your state or local government can regulate the height of your antenna structure. However, Section 97.15(b) says that such regulation must not preclude your amateur service communications. Rather, it must reasonably
accommodate such communications and must constitute the minimum practicable regulation to accomplish the state or local authority’s
legitimate purpose. It refers the reader to PRB-1 for details.
Q. What is PRB-1?
A. PRB-1 is the designation for a document containing the landmark declaratory ruling made by the FCC on September 16, 1985, pertaining
to our antenna structures. In this document, the FCC grants a Request for Declaratory Ruling regarding the matter of state
and local antenna regulations.
What did PRB-1 do?
It established a limited Federal preemption policy, requiring state and local regulations to be crafted such as to reasonably
accommodate amateur station antenna structures. Section 97.15(b) says: Except as otherwise provided herein, a station antenna structure may be erected at heights and dimensions sufficient
to accommodate amateur service communications. (State and local regulation of a station antenna structure must not preclude
amateur service communications. Rather, it must reasonably accommodate such communications and must constitute the minimum
practicable regulation to accomplish the state or local authority's legitimate purpose.
Q. What does PRB-1 say about covenants?
A. It says that the FCC has expressly decided not to extend its limited
preemption policy to covenants, conditions and restrictions contained in deeds or bylaws of homeowner and condominium associations.
Q. What was the reasoning behind that?
A. It says that such agreements are voluntarily
entered into by the buyer or tenant when the agreement is executed and, therefore, do not concern our regulator.
Q. Is the FCC ever going to extend PRB-1 to our
So far, our regulator has denied petitions seeking to expand its limited preemption private land use regulations to covenants,
conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) and rental agreements that limit amateur station antennas. In PRB-1, the FCC said there has not been a sufficient showing that CC&Rs prevent Amateur Radio operators from pursuing the
basis and purpose of the Amateur Service.
In our ever-changing political environment, however, anything is possible. It is unlikely to happen,
however, until our Congress instructs the FCC to do so. In the meantime, if you are caught up in a private agreement, you
might do well to consider some of the applications for ham radio that do not require high profile antenna structures. An HF
station at a distant site can be remotely controlled via a relatively modest UHF station or the Internet.
In FCC GN Docket No. 12-91 Uses and Capabilities of Amateur Radio Service Communications in Emergencies and Disaster Relief: Report to Congress Pursuant to Section 6414 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, Adopted August 16, 2012,
our regulator concluded that its … review of the record does not indicate that amateur operators are unable
to find homes that are not subject to such restrictions. Therefore, at this time, we do not see a compelling reason for the
Commission to revisit its previous determinations that preemption should not be expanded to CC&Rs.
Q. What are CC&Rs?
A. They are private land use restrictions
contained in covenants, conditions, and restrictions in home ownership deeds and condominium bylaws. Because such agreements
are voluntarily entered into by the buyer or tenant when the agreement is executed, they usually do not concern our regulator.
Q. What was the reason for the designation PRB?
A. The designation PRB stands for the
Private Radio Bureau, a former FCC organizational component. Many of the responsibilities of the PRB were folded
into the current and much larger WTB Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. PRB-1 marked the beginning, as well as the end, of a unique notice and comment procedure whereby the former PRB could collect information
on non-rulemaking issues.
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October 18, 2017
Supersedes all previous versions