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FCC takes steps to update EAS

The FCC took steps Thursday to begin updating the nation’s Emergency Alert System to reach the growing number of people who are receiving programming via new digital sources. It also set in motion an investigation into ways to develop a next-generation EAS system that takes advantage of the potential of digital media.

In its First Report and Order, the commission expanded existing EAS rules to include providers of digital broadcast and cable TV, digital audio broadcasting, satellite radio and direct broadcast satellite services. With the exception of direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service, the digital media providers must comply with these new requirements by Dec. 31, 2006. DBS services must comply no later than May 31, 2007.

The commission also adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to examine ways the commission can promote development of a next-generation alert and warning system that takes advantage of digital media’s potential.

The commission is seeking comment on the type of system architecture and common protocols that would be required in such a system. It also wants to know how the commission could ease the integration of wireless technologies into a next generation system and whether traditional telephone companies with plans to provide content to homes via fiber optic connections should have public alert and warning responsibilities.

The Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking also asks how a next generation EAS can reach individuals with hearing and vision disabilities and non-English speakers.

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