BE Informed No. 1.2
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John B. Johnston W3BE
Q. How tall can my antenna be?
A. 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. Read Section 97.5(a). Before you start erecting your 31 mile high antenna tower, however, you should understand that the practical height of your
antenna depends upon a number of 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 the restrictions that could limit the height of my antenna?
A. 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 in order to gain the necessary approval.
Q. How close to the airport can my antenna be before
being subject to the Part 17 restrictions?
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 a 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 on the matter of state and local
did PRB-1 do?
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 look into 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.
Q. At a club
meeting, someone asked about a Quiet Zone near FCC monitoring stations. We all thought there was no such zone. That was not
exactly correct. Section 97.13(b) says that a station within 1600 m (1 mile) of an FCC monitoring facility must protect
that facility from harmful interference. Where are those facilities?
A. Section 0.121(b) lists the geographical coordinates of the protected FCC field installations.
Coordinates are referenced to North American Datum 1983 (NAD83):
Allegan, Michigan, 42°36'20.1"
N. Latitude, 85°57'20.1" W. Longitude
Belfast, Maine, 44°26'42.3" N. Latitude, 69°04'56.1" W. Longitude
Canandaigua, New York, 42°54'48.2"
N. Latitude, 77°15'57.9" W. Longitude
Douglas, Arizona, 31°30'02.3" N. Latitude, 109°39'14.3" W. Longitude
Ferndale, Washington, 48°57'20.4"
N. Latitude, 122°33'17.6" W. Longitude
Grand Island, Nebraska, 40°55'21.0" N. Latitude, 98°25'43.2" W. Longitude
Kenai, Alaska, 60°43'26.0" N.
Latitude, 151°20'15.0" W. Longitude
Kingsville, Texas, 27°26'30.1" N. Latitude, 97°53'01.0" W. Longitude
Laurel, Maryland, 39°09'54.4"
N. Latitude, 76°49'15.9" W. Longitude
Livermore, California, 37°43'29.7" N. Latitude, 121°45'15.8" W. Longitude
Powder Springs, Georgia, 33°51'44.4"
N. Latitude, 84°43'25.8" W. Longitude
Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, 18°00'18.9" N. Latitude, 66°22'30.6" W. Longitude
Vero Beach, Florida, 27°36'22.1"
N. Latitude, 80°38'05.2" W. Longitude
Waipahu, Hawaii, 21°22'33.6" N. Latitude, 157°59'44.1" W. Longitude
For other quiet zones, read BE Informed No.
1.3 Quiet Zones Directory.
Q. If my
station is in one of those zones, what must I do?
A. Contact the appropriate FCC District Director to verify that your station’s transmissions
do not cause interference to the FCC monitoring. Section 97.13(b) says that failure to protect a FCC monitoring facility from harmful interference could result in imposition of operating
restrictions upon the amateur station by a District Director pursuant to Section 97.121 Restricted operation.
Q. Where are the District Directors?
A. Consult your nearest
District Office for current information: Atlanta, GA: Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Columbia, MD; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Detroit, MI; Kansas
City, MO; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; San Diego, CA; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA;
and Tampa, FL.
Q. What is harmful
A. Section 97.3(a)(23) defines harmful interference as Interference which endangers the functioning of a radio-navigation service or
of other safety services or seriously degrades, obstructs or repeatedly interrupts a radio-communication service operating
in accordance with the Radio Regulations. The reference is to the international Radio Regulations.
Q. What sort of operating restrictions could the FCC District Director impose on my
Section 97.121 says: (a) If the operation of an amateur station causes general interference to the reception of transmissions from stations
operating in the domestic broadcast service when receivers of good engineering design, including adequate selectivity characteristics,
are used to receive such transmissions, and this fact is made known to the amateur station licensee, the amateur station shall
not be operated during the hours from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., local time, and on Sunday for the additional period from 10:30
a.m. until 1 p.m., local time, upon the frequency or frequencies used when the interference is created. (b) In general, such
steps as may be necessary to minimize interference to stations operating in other services may be required after investigation
by the FCC.
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August 29, 2015
Supersedes all previous versions