Satellite Dishes Are on the Radar for LaMattina

City Councilor Sal LaMattina met with city officials last Thursday to go over his solution to address the clutter of satellite dishes hanging off the fronts of many East Boston’s multi-families.

LaMattina and officials worked to tweak some of the language before sending the final version to the Council for a vote.

If passed, the proposed ordinance will focus on the installation, maintenance, use and removal of satellite dishes in Eastie 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.

“This is the biggest problem in East Boston and the reason why you see so many satellite dishes on the front of homes here,” said LaMattina. “We have been able to identify that many dishes you see on the front of homes are inactive. The problem has been that over the years other dishes go up right next to the ones that are no longer in use and add to the clutter on the front of these homes.”

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 Eastie 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.

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 and does not interfere with the subscribers service.

“This ordinance is a start,” said LaMattina. “The first component will begin removing these inactive dishes and I think that will make a great impact on the look of the neighborhood.”

Eastie is second to only North Dorchester when it comes to number of satellite dish subscribers.

In October, LaMattina toured Eagle Hill with representatives from U.S. satellite dish companies like Direct T.V. and showed them how dishes hanging off the front of triple-deckers here have blighted the neighborhood.

The dishe companies agreed that the neighborhood looked awful so LaMattina and the dish companies began meeting with city officials to discuss possible solutions to the proliferation of unsightly satellite dishes hanging off the front of homes in the neighborhood.

“We came up with a pilot program and the satellite companies were excited,” said LaMattina.

The pilot program that was to be launched then rolled out to the rest of the city and possibly the nation was to begin right here in Eastie. The plan was to remove as many non-functioning dishes from the front of homes and place future dishes on rooftops or in other inconspicuous spaces on the homes that line Eagle Hill.

“This was going to be a huge win for the neighborhood,” said Lamattina.

However, the plan hit a snag due to an ongoing lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia. There, the city council passed an ordinance banning the placement of satellite dishes on the front of residential homes in urban areas.

The satellite dish companies then petitioned the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to protect the companies from the ordinance and then all hell broke loose.

The executives that saw Eastie’s problem first hand began to get cold feet and were advised by their lawyers to not take part in the Pilot Program in the neighborhood until the lawsuit in Philadelphia was resolved.

LaMattina, who was hoping to get the pilot program in Eastie done on merit without having to involve the City Council said now he has no choice but to seek an ordinance here in Boston.

LaMattina said he was hoping to avoid a formal ordinance because the dish companies and city had been working together in the best interest of the neighborhood before the issue in Philadelphia began.

“Now we have no choice but to try and pass our own ordinance,” said LaMattina.

A bit different from Philadelphia’s ordinance, LaMattina’s ordinance discussed last week does not completely ban the dishes from the front of buildings in Eastie and the rest of the city.

Instead LaMattina wants to see satellite dish companies make every effort and exhaust all other possibilities before placing a dish on the front of a home in Boston. LaMattina said he wants to see the companies make every effort to install these dishes on the roof or the sides of buildings and remove non-functioning dishes.

“That’s really the point of doing this ordinance,” said LaMattina. “It’s not punish satellite companies or subscribers but begin to work towards a solution that addresses the problem.”

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