Overwhelmingly, sentiments expressed to the FCC are in favor of delaying the deadline by which stations must have CAP-compliant EAS gear installed.
The commission has been considering changes to its Part 11 rules governing EAS to accommodate next-gen Common Alerting Protocol delivery. Reply comments were due to Docket 04-296 by close of business last Thursday.
Last week, Radio World reported that several groups including commercial and noncommercial radio and television entities pushed the FCC to grant an extension of at least six months beyond the current Sept. 30 deadline, given the uncertainty that remains regarding CAP compliance. In a joint petition, the groups asked for an expedited decision. That included NAB, all state broadcast associations, NPR, the Broadcast Warning Working Group, Association of Public Television Stations, Public Broadcasting Service, National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the American Cable Association.
NAB wrote that EAS comments had demonstrated “remarkable agreement” on major issues, especially the deadline. It noted that nearly all EAS participants and even a manufacturer support an extension. “Indeed, the commission itself recognized the potential for such a step, given that it sought comment on what factors or events might justify a further extension.”
The Broadcast Warning Working Group stated that a delay “could give volunteer and external emergency management warning stakeholders very much needed time to, as the saying goes, get our respective public/private local and state acts together.”
Jim Gorman of manufacturer Gorman-Redlich thinks an extension should be at least a year to allow time for the people who are going to issue the alerts to be trained.
State associations told the commission that the original extension to Sept. 30 was needed because participants didn’t know whether the FCC would institute a parallel certification process for equipment. “That uncertainty has not gone away,” they wrote.
NAB agreed and adds it’s uncertain whether the FCC “may revise its Part 11 rules in a way that requires manufacturers to change their design specs, or perhaps even require stations that have already purchased updated EAS gear to refurbish their equipment in some way.”
Google believes that although “further delay is not desirable, it nonetheless appears necessary, at a minimum, for the commission to establish a certification regime for EAS equipment before it can establish a meaningful deadline for EAS participants to comply with CAP obligations, so that EAS participants are able to integrate CAP-compliant equipment into their networks.” Google cautions the commission not to “unduly delay” CAP integration, noting that any extension “should be limited to the minimum period required to address real-world implementation concerns.”
Manufacturer Sage Alerting Systems believes the current deadline should hold. Sage says most of the technical issues in CAP implementation have been addressed. It noted that some commenters cite uncertainty about how a CAP message will be delivered but said FEMA recently circulated a draft of how that would be accomplished and that FEMA’s part would be “in production” by the end of September. Sage said remaining delivery uncertainties are on a state-by-state basis and will not be completely resolved until every state has a running CAP delivery system.
Noting that several states have viable delivery methods, Sage says “the EAS upgrade should not wait to start until every state has a running system.”
Sage suggests the commission expedite decisions on items that would affect existing EAS software, but “with more than half of the systems already upgraded … it is too late to make radical hardware changes.”
In some cases, a waiver of the deadline on a case-by-case basis, perhaps for smaller stations relying on contract engineers, may make more sense than an across-the-board delay, Sage says. “Minimizing the number of trips to a broadcaster by contractors is critical in controlling costs for smaller stations. Unless a source of CAP messages is known and is available for testing, it is difficult to install EAS/CAP equipment in one trip.”
Other stations seem to be waiting on EAS upgrades to see if the costs go down, Sage continued. “A further lengthy delay won’t help these broadcasters, and it won’t help the manufacturers. It is unlikely that a currently unknown, low-cost solution will present itself, given that the market is now only 25% of what it was.”
-- Leslie Stimson, Radio World
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