Public TV Raises Concern Over Possible WEA Enhancement

WASHINGTON—PBS and America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) told the FCC this week that they support continual improvement of Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) messages but not at the expense of requiring increased broadcast bandwidth to pass those messages.

The reply comments to the commission come in response to an inquiry by the agency into the feasibility of including multimedia content in WEA messages.

“The PBS Warning, Alert, and Response Network (“WARN”) provides a hardened reliable backup to the primary WEA system, with a fully redundant design that leverages public television’s coverage to send WEA messages over public television transmitters that cover virtually all of the population of the United States and its territories,” public television said in its filing.

[Read: When Disaster Strikes, Public Broadcasting Delivers]

APTS members have adopted a resolution pledging in principle to devote 1Mb/s of public TV digital capacity for FirstNet public safety network participation. Many public TV stations use datacasting via their broadcast infrastructure to transmit encrypted, targetable IP data with their DTV programing. “This combination allows for a nationwide wireless IP delivery network that is natively multicast, just like the TV signals it occupies,” the filing said.

The filing pointed to other ways in which public television is assisting various governmental agencies with the distribution of emergency messaging, including:

  • APTS working with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to provide high-speed data delivery for earthquake warnings;
  • A Department of Homeland Security pilot in Houston relying on public TV datacasting coupled with a band 14 LTE circuit for two-way communications used by the Houston police and fire departments; and
  • A similar pilot test in Chicago involving the WTTW transmitter for emergency communications involving law enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard on Lake Michigan.

According to the filing, “public stations are working with public safety entities locally in their communities and across their states to leverage the capabilities of broadcasting to distribute essential information during emergencies, and as such, must carefully guard bandwidth to ensure that these vital services remain available to communities and first responders.”

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.