FCC Turns Attention to EAS
Emergency alerting continues to
be a priority for the Federal Communication Commission. It has adopted a notice
of proposed rulemaking designed to strengthen the nation’s Emergency Alert
System by encouraging authorities to take a more active effort in promoting
participation, supporting greater testing and leveraging technological
The NPRM proposes several
changes, including that states begin to file EAS plans with the commission
through the use of an online system and template; that EAS testing transition from
a purely technical event to one that would support voluntary integration with
community exercises; and that EAS participants be required to certify
performance of industry-recommended security best practices.
The proposal also recommends allowing federal, state and local
governments to issue public service announcements using the EAS sound attention
signal, provided that the alert is presented in a non-misleading manner.
The FCC also wants comments on several issues, including whether
EAS participants should be required to submit an annual certification that they
are following EAS security best practices; how community-based alerting
exercises can best meet the needs of individuals with limited English
proficiency and those with disabilities; and what impact EAS alerts have when
they are received on different technology platforms.
commissioners gave the measure at least partial support. Commissioner Jessica
Rosenworcel said that “great programs do not thrive
without continuous review and care. The emergency alert program deserves this
consideration. It needs to be modernized.”
Michael O’Rielly approved the NPRM in part and dissented in part. He said that although EAS is a viable service, “not only must we ensure
that we do not place unnecessary burdens on states and other EAS participants,
but we also need to ensure that the alerts are reliable, and not so intrusive
or testing so pervasive that people start ignoring them.”
Commissioner Ajit Pai said he was “particularly
pleased” that the NPRM now includes a section that asks fundamental questions about
the structure of the alerting system.
“Right now EAS
messages are transmitted in one of two ways, either through the traditional
broadcast-based EAS protocol or through a newer Internet-based protocol,” he
said. “It doesn’t make sense to maintain these two approaches for redundancy or
other purposes. Should we switch to a single distribution method?” he asked.
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