The days of haphazardly hanging satellite dishes off the sides of houses is about to come to an end in East Boston. In October, City Councilor Sal LaMattina toured Eagle Hill with representatives from U.S. satellite dish companies like Direct T.V. and showed them how the neighborhood has been blighted by dishes hanging off the front of triple-deckers here.
“They totally agreed that the neighborhood looked awful,” said LaMattina. “In fact I think they were a little shocked.”
So LaMattina and the satellite 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, recently 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 our problem here began to get cold feet and were advised by their lawyers to not take part in the Pilot Program in East Boston until the lawsuit in Philadelphia was resolved,” said LaMattina.
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.
“I was hoping to avoid that,” said LaMattina. “We were all 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 out own ordinance.”
A bit different from Philadelphia’s ordinance, LaMattina is hoping to craft an ordinance here that 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.
“We want to see the companies make every effort to install these dishes on the roof or the sides of buildings,” said LaMattina. “We also want the companies to identify terminated accounts and with the permission of landlords begin removing and recycling non-functioning dishes from the front of homes in East Boston.”
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.
In the past, Direct TV and other satellite dish companies made no commitment to fix the problem of unsightly satellite dishes hanging off the fronts of hundreds of local homes and only defended the practice in the neighborhood when interviewed by the East Boston Times.
However, last year, before the Philadelphia lawsuit began, Direct TV spokesman Robert Mercer said the company was ready and willing to work with the city and neighborhood on solutions.
“We’re eager to meet with members of the Boston City Council to address their concerns and explain how we can provide solutions that will satisfy both the programming needs of our customers and the aesthetic values of the neighborhood,” said Mercer at the time.