Crackdown on DBS Dishes in Illinois

The Lincoln (Ill.) Courier published an article last week informing readers that Lincoln City Building and Safety Officer Les Last was asking some homeowners to remove DBS satellite dishes from their front yards. In the report, Last said, "Nothing is allowed in front yards -- sheds, storage buildings or carports. We like to keep the front yards clean."

A local satellite dish retailer told the Lincoln Courier that federal laws prohibit local ordinances banning satellite dishes. The FCC Media Bureau's Information Sheet on the Over-the-Air Devices Rule says the rule "allows local governments, community associations and landlords to enforce restrictions that do not impair the installation, maintenance or use of the types of antennas described above (satellite dishes less than one meter in diameter, TV antennas and wireless cable antennas), as well as restrictions needed for safety or historic preservation." To qualify under the safety or historic preservation condition, the restriction is not allowed to be more burdensome than necessary to accomplish the safety or preservation purpose.

The FCC fact sheet says valid restrictions include "fire codes preventing people from installing antennas on fire escapes; restrictions requiring that a person not place an antenna within a certain distance from a power line; and installation requirements that describe the proper method to secure an antenna." It also says, "The safety reason for the restriction must be written in the text, preamble or legislative history of the restriction, or in a document that is readily available to antenna users, so that a person who wishes to install an antenna knows what restrictions apply. Safety restrictions cannot discriminate between objects that are comparable in size and weight and pose the same or a similar safety risk as the antenna that is being restricted."

It isn't clear if the Lincoln ordinance meets these requirements. In the article, Officer Last said that the city had no problem if federal rulings say it is allowed. The local retailer is working with the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association and attorneys in Washington.