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Group Pushes FCC on Standardizing EAS Gear Response

Concept of “Virtual Red Envelope” automated message authenticator being discussed

The FCC should consider standardizing how EAS encoders/decoders respond to all EAS events. That’s according to the Broadcast Warning Working Group, comprised of subject experts in broadcast radio and TV engineering, broadcast association management and EAS.

“We know this will not be an easy, painless nor inexpensive process,” the group tells the commission in filed comments.

The agency sought comment on how to authenticate alerts, and anything else related to improving EAS, after the October “Bobby Bones” incident.

No changes the agency decides to implement will have any binding effect unless an overall EAS certification process for all vendor gear EAS “behaviors” is put in place, according to the BWWG. There is a certification process for CAP-EAS equipment, however that’s not enough, according to the group, as long as legacy EAS continues.

The commission should still allow manufacturers to implement their own feature sets; BWWG suggests a requirement that a “radio” feature set should not impact a feature set for “TV” or “cable” and vice-versa.

The “Virtual Red Envelope,” an automated message authenticator is getting attention in the industry. The VRE concept gets its name from the Cold War-era EBS red envelope that contained codes to validate national activations. The system was never used for a real EBS event, according to BWWG.

Discussed on various Listservs, what’s being proposed would use the IPAWS servers to distribute a short validation code as part of the Required Weekly Test. “Upon receipt of an enhanced single location EAN, EAT and NPT message created only by the Presidential Entry Point system and authorized test encoders, recipient equipment would compare the validation code of the enhanced message header to the prior downloaded and locally stored code. A code match would compel the recipient equipment to automatically and immediately proceed to forward the entire enhanced EAS message in accordance with Part 11 requirements,” the BWWG tells the commission.

If the messages don’t match, an alarm would sound, requiring manual review. The single location code EAN, EAT, and NPT message types would trigger the recipient equipment to accept the added field for decoding and validation. To minimize erroneous matches and missed code circulations and account for the staggered weekly test schedule based on time-zone, the system would include the three most recent week’s validation codes.

Like NAB, the BWWG says an industry group can help solve the issue and suggests reviving the Partnership for Public Warning.