After City Councilor Sal LaMattina pushed through an ordinance to regulate how satellite dishes are installed in neighborhoods like Charlestown the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) blocked the measure last year.
Under pressure from the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association (SBCA) the FCC folded to the huge lobbying power of the SBCA after they threatened to file a lawsuit against the city and other cities trying to pass similar ordinances.
LaMattina’s ordinance has been in limbo for 11 months but now a FCC watchdog group is siding with LaMattina and Boston.
During a recent committee meeting, the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC), a federally mandated group created to guide the FCC on state and local matters, called the FCC inaction on the matter inappropriate because there is currently no legal justification prohibiting local governments from regulating how satellite dishes are placed.
This could be a big win for LaMattina’s if the IAC forces the FCC to lift the block on the city’s ordinance.
The Chairwoman of the IAC, Joyce Dickerson said the committee thinks that ordinances like LaMattina’s should be up to local governments and the FCC should take action immediately.
The satellite dish companies planned to file a lawsuit to block LaMattina’s ordinance. The proposed ordinance would have focused on the installation, maintenance, use and removal of satellite dishes in Charlestown and across the city.
The ordinance would for the first time force dish companies or subscribers to remove inactive dishes on residential or commercial properties before a new one is installed.
Since 2010 LaMattina has been working to find a solution to address the clutter of satellite dishes hanging off the fronts of many of Charlestown’s multi-families.
“They tried to pass a similar ordinance in Philadelphia and the satellite companies filed a lawsuit there and the FCC blocked the ordinance,” explained LaMattina. “We were prepared for the satellite companies to try and block any ordinance.”
LaMattina said he plans to travel to Washington D.C. and plead his case to the FCC.
“I want to go there and show them the results of our study and how satellite dish installation has become a real problem in some Boston neighborhoods,” said LaMattina. “I want to show that we were able to identify that many dishes you see on the front of homes in places like Charlestown are inactive and that this problem needs to be addressed.”
Since May 2010, LaMattina and the city have tried to work with satellite dish providers and landlords to identify dishes that have been abandoned or are no longer in working order. According to the city, satellite dish providers charge a $400 fee for the removal of a dish to subscribers. The problem in parts of Charlestown is once a resident moves from a property, the former subscriber simply abandons the dish. This adds to the visual problem because many times the satellite dish company will come out and slap another dish to the side of a home without first removing the older dish.
“This is why there are sometimes six or seven dishes on the front of one home that has seen a large turnaround in renters,” said LaMattina.
Aside from the plan to remove as many non-functioning dishes from the front of homes the ordinance also calls for the placement of dishes on rooftops or in other inconspicuous spaces if it is reasonable to do so.