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FCC January Meeting to Tackle WEA, Paper Copy Rules

The Federal Communications Commission has again created a full agenda for itself at its next Open Meeting.

In addition to revamping digital television media rules and creating a new Office of Economics and Analytics division, the commission plans to tackle the issue of wireless emergency alerts and the filing of paper contracts for broadcast licensees at the Jan. 30 meeting.

In a blog published the same day as the January agenda, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai highlighted the need to improve Wireless Emergency Alerts by better targeting alerts to impacted areas.

“We can and must do even better when it comes to targeting these alerts,” Pai said in his blog, adding that the current orders — in FCC-Speak called the Second Report and Order and the Second Order on Reconsideration — will more precisely target these alerts to affected communities, he said.

Under the current proposal, participating wireless providers would deliver alerts to match a specified geographic area. According to Pai, this would encourage more local officials to use these alerts with confidence, lead Americans to take more seriously the alerts they receive on their mobile devices and encourage fewer people to opt out of receiving WEA messages.

The proposal also includes additional reforms, such as a requirement that alert messages be preserved in a consumer-accessible format for at least 24 hours after the alert is received. “When disaster strikes, an alert on your mobile device might convey life-saving information,” Pai said. “We want WEA to be a strong-enough system to help you should that moment ever arrive.”

The WEA order would:

● Require participating wireless providers to better target alerts to geographic areas — with no more than 0.1 mile overshoot. This so-called enhanced geotargeting requirement would go into effect Nov. 30, 2019
● Require participating wireless providers to determine which networks or mobile devices are incapable of matching the specified target area
● Require WEA-capable mobile devices to preserve alert messages for at least 24 hours after the alert is received on the device. This would also go into effect Nov. 30, 2019
● Define participation in WEA depending on whether a wireless provider can transmit alert messages to all or only some of their geographic service area
● Support Spanish-language alert messages and 360-character messages by May 1, 2019.

The orders can be found here.

Pai highlighted a second item in his blog — a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking — that meshes with the commission’s ongoing media modernization initiative. This rulemaking proposes to eliminate the requirement that broadcast stations must submit paper copies of station ownership contracts. Pai has been a proponent of eliminating this requirement, which dovetails with the requirement that broadcasters host their public files online starting March 1.

The commission is also seeking additional comment on other proposed modifications to broadcasters’ current obligations. The complete notice can be found .