Small Cable Ops Ask Regulators to Postpone EAS-CAP Mandate for a Year

PITTSBURGH: The organization representing small cable operators is asking for more time to implement new Emergency Alert System technology. The American Cable Association asked the Federal Communications Commission for another year to effectuate Common Alerting Protocol, or CAP. The deadline for doing so now stands at Sept. 30.

“ACA believes that the EAS CAP reception deadline should be generally extended,” said ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka. “This will give the FCC time to provide much needed guidance and certainty as to the obligations being placed on the EAS participant, including the compliance options available to cable operators and time for the vendor market to react.”

CAP is an XML-based messaging format intended to standardize the alerting process across various warning agencies. It was approved last fall by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to theoretically enable local, state and federal agencies to send a single warning that can be deciphered by TVs, radios, cellphones, computers and other platforms such as digital signage.

Cable, satellite and broadcast TV providers must comply by the deadline, but there are still unanswered questions “regarding the codification of specific obligations for CAP functionality, the incorporation of that functionality into the FCC’s existing equipment certification scheme, the use of intermediary devices for compliance, and the certification of such devices,” the ACA said. “The FCC must first answer these questions before companies and equipment vendors can respond and companies come into compliance with CAP requirements. All of this will take time, making compliance with the rapidly approaching Sept. 30, 2011, CAP reception deadline all but impossible.”

The lobby said it would need another year for small- and medium-sized cable operators to comply, because gear vendors are now focused on accommodating larger operators, “and do not focus on smaller operators and their unique concerns until later.” Smaller operations also have fewer resources to keep up with the FCC’s various requirements in general, and some may not even be aware of the pending September deadline, the ACA said.

“ACA and its member companies understand the importance of complying with updated EAS requirements,” Polka said. “However, to benefit their communities, small companies with limited resource need time to understand the best solutions for their systems and make wise purchasing decisions.”

The ACA also asked the FCC to exempt systems with 500 or fewer subscribers; those without wired broadband, which is necessary for CAP, and those that demonstrate financial hardship.

The deadline for filing reply comments on the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Part 11 rules governing EAS are due Aug. 4.