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State Broadcast Associations Seek CAP-EAS Delay

Religious stations and Prometheus agree, while Sage feels delay isn’t necessary

Whether to delay or retain the CAP-EAS equipment deadline continues to be a hot topic as more public comments are filed at the FCC in EAS proceeding.

State Broadcasters Associations representing the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico agree with the NAB that the FCC should extend by 180 days the deadline by which broadcasters must be able to accept Common Alerting Protocol-EAS messages. Noting that the original March 29 deadline was extended to Sept. 30, the state associations told the commission in public comments filed this week that the first CAP extension was sought “because it was not then known whether the FCC would institute a parallel certification process for the equipment that would be needed to fully comply with the CAP deadline. That uncertainty has not gone away.”

No broadcasters should be required to buy EAS gear without knowing whether it will be FCC-compliant, said the associations. They also note that many state and local authorities, who originate emergency alerts, see CAP conversion “as a luxury which they cannot presently afford.”

In a joint filing, several religious licensees including Houston Christian Broadcasters, the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago and others are pushing for a one year delay. Currently broadcasters must be able to receive a Common Alerting Protocol-formatted EAS messages by Sept. 30.

The religious groups say they’ve “found it difficult to acquire type-accepted CAP equipment at a reasonable price due to the lack of meaningful competition between the very few manufacturers who have type-accepted equipment.” They also say it’s impossible for nonprofit, noncommercial broadcasters to meet the current deadline during a recession, when donations to their operations are down.

The Prometheus Radio Project also supports a year-long compliance extension, saying the cost of buying new EAS equipment is a “significant burden” for many smaller, volunteer-run stations. “For example, of 40 low-power FM stations recently contacted by Prometheus, approximately 30% reported having an annual budget of less than $3,000 (the approximate cost of a new CAP-compliant EAS decoder).”

EAS equipment manufacturer Sage Alerting Systems opposes extending the deadline, telling the commission many broadcasters have already acquired equipment or have placed orders. “Sage estimates at least half, possibly as much as 70 % have done so.”

Sage recommends the FCC keep the current deadline, but allow EAS participants to have “90 days (or Dec. 31, 2011, whichever is later), to actually begin receiving messages from the IPAWS server, and 90 days after a state plan is approved by the FCC to begin receiving state messages.” This would give both stations and state emergency staffs more time to train their personnel on the new system, according to the manufacturer.

Reply comments are due to Docket 04-296 by Aug. 4.

— Leslie Stimson