The city of Boston is seeking to ban satellite dishes that are fitted to the ‘front’, that is the visible frontages, of homes especially in its downtown area. It is the same in Philadelphia, and now other town councils are joining the objectors. “We have blocks that look like NASA or Area 51,” said William Carter, a chief staffer for the Philadelphia City Council, quoted this weekend. He cites some multiple-dwelling homes which have as many as eight satellite installations of the front of the house.
Springfield, another Massachusetts city, is also fed up with its citizens decorating the front of its houses and apartments with satellite dishes. The city’s officials say it would not be so bad if owners would take their dishes down when they move out. Many are rusted and unconnected into the home. Only in the historical downtown area of Springfield can the local authority order a dish to be removed.
Indeed, even this accepted ‘rule’ might be a misnomer. The Satellite, Broadcasting & Communications Association (SBCA), in a statement April 25th, reminded local authorities that their rights in ordering any sort of ban are very limited. Federal law prohibits any such regulation. The FCC regulations which are known as the ‘OTARD rules’ (for ‘over the air reception device’) prohibit cities from restricting dish placement. They essentially prohibit restrictions that increase costs, delay installation, or preclude signal reception—unless the restrictions are both justified by real safety or historic preservation concerns and applied evenhandedly to all devices, not just satellite dishes.
The SBCA says dish-owners would want to see the ‘clean-up’ applied equally to unsightly bundling of cable wires, electricity supplies and telephone connections, and might even apply to air-conditioning units which frequently hang out of windows.