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Statements: Kennard | Furchtgott-Roth
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Federal Communications Commission
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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

Report No. CS 98-17 CABLE SERVICES ACTION November 20, 1998

(CS Docket No. 96-83)

The Commission has adopted an Order (FCC 98-273) further implementing Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to promote consumer choice and competition in the video programming distribution market. The revised over-the-air reception devices rule extends the prohibition on restrictions that hamper consumer use of television antennas, small satellite dishes, and wireless cable antennas to include viewers who rent property and wish to install and use antennas in areas where they have exclusive use, such as balconies or patios. This order also preserves property rights and avoids practical problems by excluding common areas, such as the roof of a multi-dwelling unit building, from the rule.

Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 directed the Commission to enact regulations to prohibit restrictions that impair a viewer's ability to receive video programming through devices designed for over-the-air reception of direct broadcast satellite ("DBS") service, multichannel multipoint distribution service ("MMDS" or "wireless cable"), or television broadcast signals. The Commission adopted the rule that currently applies to antenna restrictions on property within the exclusive use or control of an antenna user who has a direct or indirect ownership interest in the property. At that time, the Commission issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on whether Section 207 should be interpreted to apply also to rental property and common areas.

In response to the Further Notice, the Commission now amends the rule, within the bounds of its statutory authority, to give many renters a choice in video programming services. The rule prohibits restrictions that impair the use of dishes and antennas in rented apartments, homes, or other dwellings, and adjacent outside property such as balconies, patios, gardens or yards that are exclusively used by the renter.

With respect to common areas that are owned by a landlord, a community association or jointly by condominium owners, the Commission concludes that Section 207 does not authorize expansion of the rule to prohibit restrictions on installation and use of antennas in these areas, including the roof, exterior walls or other restricted access areas. The Commission concluded that Congress intended the Commission to eliminate "restrictions" on Section 207 devices but did not direct the Commission to impose affirmative duties on landlords or community associations to install Section 207 reception devices. In addition, the Commission concluded that the statute does not authorize the Commission to require property owners (e.g., landlords or homeowners' associations) to give up their property (e.g. roofs and common areas) to permit viewers to install Section 207 reception devices on these common or restricted access areas, which would have raised serious Constitutional concerns. The revisions adopted by the Commission also avoid the serious practical problems associated with extending the rule to common areas.

Action by the Commission, November 14, 1998, by Order (FCC 98-273). Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness, Powell and Tristani. Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth dissenting in part and issuing a statement. Chairman Kennard issuing a separate statement.

News Media Contact: Morgan Broman at (202) 418-2358
Cable Services Bureau Contact: Eloise Gore or Darryl Cooper at (202) 418-7200
TTY: (202) 418-7172