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In the Matter of Implementation of Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996: Preempting Restrictions on Over-the-Air Reception Devices

Today we complete our proceeding to remove restrictions on consumers' ability to access video programming offered by means other than cable. I am proud of the Commission's work to expand the Over-the-Air Reception Devices rule up to the limits of the authority Congress gave us in Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.1

As a result of Section 207 and our rules, thousands of consumers now are able to receive television programming through small satellite dishes, wireless cable or traditional "stick" antennas. The action we take today extends that ability to consumers who rent their homes or apartments and have a place within their rental property to install an antenna. Our rule brings choice to renters who live in high-rise buildings and have a balcony on which to install an antenna, just as owners of condominium units may install an antenna on their balconies and owners or renters of townhouses may have an antenna on their patios. The Commission has thus eliminated the have-and-have-not distinction that gave homeowners access to the competitive video market but denied it to all apartment dwellers.

I am disappointed that Section 207 did not permit us to go as far as we might have to promote competition and eliminate barriers for all consumers. In my view, it is vitally important that all consumers have the ability to select the video programmer of their choice. However, Section 207 directed us only to "prohibit restrictions" on the receipt of video programming and, as this Second Report and Order describes, prohibiting restrictions can only take us part of the way. Section 207 does not authorize the Commission to impose an affirmative duty on landlords to provide access for competitive video providers, and the statute does not clearly address the Constitutional requirement for "just compensation" that may be necessary to give consumers access to the roof or common areas of the landlord's property. Nonetheless, I am committed to working toward a complete solution to this problem.

When we released the Fourth Annual Competition Report at the beginning of this year, I mentioned my hope that Congress and the Commission would work together to evaluate statutory proposals to eliminate barriers to competition. I am especially interested in working with Congress to find ways to provide access to competitive video services for more consumers.

1. 1996 Act, 207, 110 Stat. 114 (1996).