Pursuit of Happiness

The Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2014, is a congressional effort to direct the FCC to extend the “reasonable accommodation” provision for ham radio antennas to include all types of land-use regulation, including deed restrictions and restrictive covenants. I predicted this would die a swift death, and while I still expect it to fail to become law, the “swift” part may not come to pass as the bill continues to gain co-sponsors.

So while that works its way through the political maze in Washington, it has sparked a more interesting debate in the world of amateur radio. Most of us might expect the fraternity to embrace any regulation that benefits us, yet a few cracks of dissension have started to show. Beginning with an appearance on HamRadioNow (#158) by Mike Alexander, N8MSA who cited his libertarian view that the government shouldn’t get involved in private contracts.

While his is far from the prevailing view, I’ve been surprised by the number of hams who have adopted it as their own and are reciting it in online forums, mailing lists, and social media.

Though I have my own reservations about shoving ham radio down the throats of muggles via government legislation, I also find a chuckle or two in the notion that this is a desirable libertarian cause. I mean come on, ham radio inhabits a swath of radio spectrum that can only be used by federally licensed devotees. The entire notion of a select group of citizens being exclusively handed publicly owned radio spectrum is anti-libertarian. For the true zealot, the proper view would be that the airwaves belong to “we the people”, not the federal government, who should auction it off to the highest bidder and get out of the business of regulating it altogether.

You might have a more difficult time finding any supporters for that kind of political correctness among the rank-and-file radio hobbyists.

What this really comes down to is decisions, choices, compromise, and the pursuit of happiness. One fellow’s 70-foot tower and antenna brings him happiness but ruins it for his neighbor. Another fellow wants his kids to go to the best schools, be near the amenities of city life — while abiding in a Norman Rockwell painting neighborhood — but he doesn’t want to agree not to plant an antenna farm in that Nirvana. Or worse, he does agree and signs on the dotted line, but now wants Uncle Sam to bail him out of his poor decision.

I understand the broader issue is much more complicated than that, but it’s tough to get much sympathy from those of us who made the decision to live outside the confines of fancy neighborhoods in favor of owning a home with no land-use restrictions.

But you can’t throw the baby out with the bath water. In a vacuum, local governments are as bound to overreach as the feds. Without legal protection, whose to say that some local tin-horn dictator won’t slap antenna restrictions on places that have never before heard of them? I like to think that PRB-1 provides that protection, but who knows?

It all feels a lot less reassuring when you read how an HOA expert interprets these things.

Author: Jeff Davis