FCC Considers Expanding Travelers Information Stations with Additional Public Safety Information

January 5, 2011

Washington - Dec 30, 2010 - The Federal Communications Commission has adopted an order and notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comment on whether the role of travelers information stations (TIS) should be expanded beyond sharing noncommercial information of interest to travelers, including broadcast of Amber alerts, public health warnings, terror threat levels, weather reports and other helpful information. TIS stations serve as a local AM radio communications channel for motorists seeking information and updates on traffic congestion, accidents and weather reports.

The FCC wants to know if expanding TIS's role to provide travelers with other types of emergency information and alerts may benefit the public interest not only through redundancy, but particularly during power blackouts when traditional means of communications may be inoperable. The FCC notes that a significant number of TIS stations operate on solar-power and/or have battery back-up power systems and would continue to provide broadcast information to travelers regionally during significant power outages.

The order and NPRM comes as a direct result from petitions filed by the Highway Information Systems (HIS), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Association of Information Radio Operators (AAIRO) requesting that the FCC expand the role of TIS nationwide by allowing regional broadcasts of more types of potential life-saving emergency information to travelers.

The FCC also seeks comment on whether TIS power limits should be modified to reach a larger listening audience in their coverage areas and to what extent TIS broadcast locations should be expanded without resulting in harmful interference to the communications of other licensed broadcasters.

Radio magazine observation: While providing another source of public information in an emergency, some broadcasters may view the enhanced TIS services as yet another form of competition.

PS Docket No. 09-19, RM-11514 and RM-11531

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