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Alerting NPRM Is Subject of Speculation

Clock extension question is a common theme

Many issues remain unsettled on the question of alerting. So legal observers expect the FCC soon to put out a notice of proposed rule making on the subject, given that it hasn’t amended its rules to provide for CAP-based messaging — even though broadcasters and others are expected to comply with the Common Alerting Protocol standard by the end of March (as of now, at least).

Denise Branson, paralegal at the law firm Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, writes in the firm’s newsletter: “As CAP is designed to cross all technical boundaries, everyone from broadcasters to cellular phone operators to MVPD providers should be on the lookout for a fast-tracked (in light of the ticking clock) NPRM.”

Issues an NPRM might consider, Branson writes, include whether the FCC should eliminate locally delivered test scripts for EAN (Emergency Action Notification), EAS and the EAS Handbook; whether national activation with the EOM code should be eliminated; whether to update broadcast EAS rules; who should be responsible for translating alerts into multiple languages; whether a nationwide training program should be instituted for crafting and implementing EAS messages; and whether the “selective override” issue for cable operators should be revisited.

“And an obvious practical question looming over all this will be whether the 180-day deadline should be extended to give affected players — including, but not limited to, the FCC itself — a bit more time in which to get their act together,” Branson writes, echoing a question Radio World has heard from numerous broadcast engineers, manufacturers and other alerting participants.

“It is far from clear, for example, that equipment manufacturers will be able to (a) get their gear modified to conform to whatever new standards the FCC may adopt, and then (b) get the FCC to bless the modified gear, and then (c) get it out in the marketplace before the current deadline, now less than 180 days away. And once that equipment is available in the market, broadcasters, MVPDs, cellphone companies, etc., etc. will all have to buy and install it.”

She also noted that the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau took comments in March about how the FCC’s EAS rules would have to be modified to accommodate new CAP standards. “But since then, we have heard nothing from the commission in the way of a formal proposal for amended rules to address the conversion to a CAP system.”