A.10 Laws ConcerningAntennas and Towers

A.10.1 FCC Preemption of Local Law

When putting up antennas and other gear, you may run into local ordinances and homeowner agreements that are designed to prevent such installations. But, thanks to kind lobbyists like those at the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association (SBCA), the FCC has stepped in and overruled most of these local ordinances and agreements.

For a good introduction to this topic, read Roy Trumbell's paper at http://www.lns.com/sbe/antenna_mounts.html.

This rule should apply only to broadcast signals such as TV, DBS, or MMDS. However, it might be argued that the provision for MMDS could also cover wireless data deployment, because:

1.4000 Restrictions impairing reception of television broadcast signals, direct broadcast satellite services, or multichannel multipoint distribution services:

1.4000(a)(1)(i) An antenna that is:

(A) Used to receive direct broadcast satellite service, including direct-to-home satellite service, or to receive or transmit fixed wireless signals via satellite, and

(B) One meter or less in diameter or is located in Alaska;


1.4000(a)(2) For purposes of this section, "fixed wireless signals" means any commercial non-broadcast communications signals transmitted via wireless technology to and/or from a fixed customer location. Fixed wireless signals do not include, among other things, AM radio, FM radio, amateur (HAM) radio, Citizen's Band (CB) radio, and Digital Audio Radio Service (DARS) signals.

There are conditions:

1.400(c) In the case of an antenna that is used to transmit fixed wireless signals, the provisions of this section shall apply only if a label is affixed to the antenna that:

(1) Provides adequate notice regarding potential radiofrequency safety hazards, e.g., information regarding the safe minimum separation distance required between users and transceiver antennas; and

(2) References the applicable FCC-adopted limits for radiofrequency exposure specified in 1.1310 of this chapter.

Issues such as "can traffic such as Multicast IP fall under these rules?" and "what percentage of traffic must be broadcast?" need to be resolved before this section of the FCC rules can be fully interpreted.

A.10.2 Height Limitations

A.10.2.1 Local ordinances

Most cities regulate the construction of towers. These regulations are all different, but maximum height limits are usually given (e.g., 300 feet for a tower in Oakland, or 10 feet for a mast on a residence in Fremont), zoning considerations (residential or commercial) apply, construction specifications (no antennas 15 feet above a tower in Oakland, or a 300-foot setback in Fremont) must be followed, and aesthetic limitations (e.g., what color, how hidden) are always a factor. You will have to jump over various hurdles with each city and installation.

A.10.2.2 FAA and FCC tower registration

The FAA is very concerned about tall structures that airplanes could bump into. Part 17.7(a) of the FCC R&R defines these structures as:

Any construction or alteration of more than 60.96 meters (200 feet) in height above ground level at its site.

The next section details which towers must be marked, and gives special attention to structures that may be in the glide slope of a runway or pose "extraordinary hazard potentials."

Details can also be found in the U.S. Department of Transportation Advisory Circular AC70/7460-1K.

If your tower falls into this category, you must register it with the FCC, per Part 17.4.