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Reasonable Accommodation and Ham Radio

reasonable accommodation

Ham radio operators receive reasonable accommodation in their communities for only one reason: public service. 

Reasonable accommodation is mainly human common sense. We all bend and shift a little to avoid arguments and conflicts. At least, up to a point. Where that point lies depends on our culture and personal values. In the U.S., legal status of reasonable accommodation arrived in the United States Civil Rights Act in 1968. In Canada, it’s part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Although less prominent, it is recognized across many countries.

In 1985, reasonable accommodation was applied to ham radio antennas. Amateurs use it to resolve conflicts with local governments. If and when the Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2017 becomes law, it will also apply to home owners agreements and other similar deed restrictions. (Yes, I know this is U.S. context, but similar concepts apply elsewhere.)

Why do ham radio operators qualify for reasonable accommodation? This qualification is not about ham radio being an interesting or historical hobby. Nor is it about “rights of individuals”. Public service – providing a “good” to the community – is the foundation.

Amateurs receive privileges for two reasons. Firstly, they are licensed and regulated by national governments that deem some value to exist to society. Secondly, that value is viewed primarily as public safety communications during time of emergency. What’s more, it is not just the communications performed. Trained operators who can perform these services are at the core.

Read the FCC and other documents about existing preemption of local regulations about radio antennas. The reasoning is clear. Ham radio gains some privileges more for what it can do, rather than what it is.

Reasonable Accommodation – Support Your Radio Clubs

Take this a step further. Hams must seriously support their local and national clubs and associations. Collective action is what maintains the reasonable accommodation status. Clubs provide resources to help hams negotiate and navigate the regulations about antennas.

Regulators need support, too. I cringe when I hear hams calling for less regulation and removal of licensing fees. You want and need regulation to preserve your status. Hams need to pay license fees to keep regulators in the business of preserving their interests.

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