Comprehensive Guide to OTARD Rules

Overview and Historical Context

Introduction: The OTARD rule, enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), addresses restrictions on viewers' ability to receive video programming signals from direct broadcast satellites, broadband radio service providers, and television broadcast stations. It became effective in October 1996 and has been modified three times since.

Amendments and Applicability

Amendments: The rule was amended in 1999 to include rental properties with exclusive use areas (like balconies), in 2000 to apply to antennas that receive and transmit fixed wireless signals, and in 2021 to include hub and relay antennas for broadband-only fixed wireless services.

Scope: It applies to individuals installing antennas on owned or rented property within their exclusive control. This includes single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and cooperative units with exclusive use areas.

Types of Antennas Covered

Covered Antennas: The rule covers dish antennas less than one meter in diameter, antennas designed to receive video programming via broadband radio service, and antennas for local television broadcast signals. Masts used to mount these antennas are included, subject to certain height restrictions.

Fixed Wireless Signals: These include commercial non-broadcast communications signals for services like telephone or high-speed Internet access. The rule applies to antennas receiving or transmitting these signals.

Hub and Relay Antennas: The rule includes hub or relay antennas used for distributing fixed wireless services to multiple locations, as long as they serve customers on the premises where they are located.

Restrictions and Prohibitions

Prohibited Restrictions: Restrictions that unreasonably delay or prevent the use of such antennas, increase the cost of installation, maintenance, or use, or preclude reception of a quality signal are prohibited. This applies to regulations by local governments, HOAs, and landlords.

Unreasonable Delays and Expenses: Procedural requirements like permits or prior approval for installation, and additional costs that are not justified, are generally not allowed.

Placement Preferences: HOAs can establish enforceable placement preferences, provided these don't prevent reception or transmission of a quality signal or add unreasonable expenses.

Number of Antennas: Restrictions cannot limit the number of antennas if more than one is necessary to receive or transmit the desired service.

Exceptions and Safety Considerations

Safety and Historic Preservation: Legitimate safety restrictions or those needed for historic preservation are permissible, provided they are the minimum required to achieve the purpose.

Radiofrequency (RF) Exposure: Antennas must comply with FCC guidelines on RF exposure. Professional installation might be required for transmitting antennas based on safety considerations.

Specific Scenarios and Clarifications

Application to Various Properties: The rule applies to different types of properties, including condominiums, rental properties, townhomes, and mobile homes, with specific considerations for each.

Exclusions: The rule does not apply to antennas used for AM/FM radio, amateur radio, or to receive distant signals.

Internet Access and Data Services: Antennas for internet access and data services are covered under the rule.

Guidance for HOAs and Property Owners

Compliance Guidelines: HOAs seeking to revise their restrictions to comply with the OTARD rule should consider the specific needs of their community and ensure that any placement preferences don't impose unreasonable delays or expenses.

Permits and Installation Requirements

Mast Height and Permits: For antennas on tall masts, local authorities may require safety permits if the mast extends significantly above the roofline. However, these regulations are restricted to exclusive use areas.

Commercial Property Consideration

Application to Commercial Property: The rule also applies to antennas installed on commercial properties in the same way as residential properties.

Dispute Resolution

Handling Disputes: In case of disputes over restrictions, parties can file a Petition for Declaratory Ruling with the FCC. The rule encourages dispute resolution before legal filings.

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