APTS, PBS Back FCC’s Efforts to Increase False Emergency Alert Reports

(Image credit: FEMA)

WASHINGTON—Citing the goal of quickly and accurately informing the public about safety threats, America’s Public Television Stations and PBS (collectively PTV), supports the FCC’s efforts to increase submissions of false emergency alerts. It is something that PTV believes that it is already well-equipped to assist with.

The organizations submitted these comments in response to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that has proposed changes to the emergency alert system. Specifically, it seeks to “formalize and enlarge the process by which government entities may submit reports of false alerts to the commission.”

In its comments, PTV said that it is uniquely positioned to help increase the knowledge and transparency about how emergency alerts appear in real time with its PBS WARN System. It claims that PBS WARN would help lead to more reporting of false alerts, and thus help the FCC better study and strengthen EAS’s effectiveness and reliability.

More details on false reports will help the FCC better detect potential trends and patterns that need looking into to improve the EAS. PTV says that the current system relies on an awareness that a false alert was actually issued.  The new rules would encourage government entities to report a false alert if it “becomes aware of transmission” to the public.

Based on this proposed rule, PTV wants government entities to have an increased ability to be made aware of such false reports. To help with this, PTV suggests the FCC encourage and facilitate the development and support for tools and resources to help stakeholders identify false alerts.

PBS says that it has such a system in its Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN). The PBS WARN system distributes all WEA messages to commercial mobile service providers across the country, with a reach to 97% of the U.S. population. It is connected directly to the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). PBS WARN can be used to view both active and expired WEA messages based on location, alert type and date.

The PBS WARN system features two validation tools. First, users can confirm whether a WEA message was in fact transmitted through the IPAWS infrastructure and confirm the correct geographic location was selected. Second, the system can determine whether appropriate information was communicated to the public using Common Alerting Protocol.

“PTV believes that raising awareness about the PBS WARN System website as part of the commission’s efforts to report and reduce false alerts will ultimately result in much more accurate reporting,” PTV’s comments read.

However, the PBS WARN system is a federal grant-funded public safety initiative and is not currently funded for further enhancements beyond July 15, 2021. PTV therefore asks that the FCC be mindful of potential costs that might result from its NPRM proposed changes.