Cable Group Decries EAS-CAP Rules

PITTSBURGH: The American Cable Association is concerned about federal rules issued this week requiring operators to incorporate Common Alerting Protocol into their Emergency Alert System capability. (See “Final EAS-CAP Rules Allow Converters, Eliminate Gubernatorial Alerts.”)

“ACA is highly disappointed with the FCC’s decision to impose rigidly new and costly regulatory mandates on the nation’s very smallest cable operators,” said ACA chief Matt Polka.

The ACA, along with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, urged the FCC to exempt small operators from CAP compliance, which requires an Internet connection. Polka noted that some of the affected cable systems are located in areas “where a physical connection is not available.”

The FCC rejected blanket waivers, preferring to consider them case-by-case and limit them to six months.

“Because the FCC did not adopt or even consider a streamlined waiver process, ACA members will have to absorb the added expense of retaining counsel to draft waivers and track their progress within the agency after they have been submitted,” Polka, said. “Thus, cable operators that can’t afford to comply with the FCC’s EAS mandates will be required to engage in a waiver process that could cost even more.

“The majority of systems that do not have a physical Internet connection serve from a few dozen to a few hundred subscribers. Most are struggling to break even today, and some are losing money. Their inability to shoulder the cost of new regulatory burdens, both through EAS-CAP compliance and a waiver process, will likely lead some to shut down their cable systems prematurely.”

The upshot is that small-system subscribers would lose cable-delivered EAS messages along with multichannel service.

“And in some cases, it would also deny access to broadcast TV-delivered EAS services where subscribers of these systems reside beyond the reach of the broadcasters’ over-the-air transmissions,” he said.

“The FCC’s unwillingness to recognize the financial strain of the EAS-CAP regime on many small cable companies by establishing a streamlined waiver process is terribly disappointing and should be reconsidered promptly.”