FCC Releases Fifth EAS Report and Order

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FCC Releases Fifth EAS Report and Order

Jan 12, 2012 8:50 AM

Washington - Jan 10, 2012 - The Federal Communications Commission has released the Fifth Report and Order on the Emergency Alert System (EB Docket No. 04-296). The main thrust of the rulemaking is to further implement the Common Alerting Protocol into the EAS rules and to streamline the existing Part 11 Rules.

The Fifth Report and Order is the second of two orders that implement Part 11 rule changes stemming from the Third FNPRM. The other order, the Fourth Report and Order, addressed the single issue of establishing a new deadline of June 30, 2012, for meeting the various CAP-related requirements that this order codifies.

With the order, the FCC codifies in detail the general obligation the Commission adopted in the Second Report and Order in this docket to require EAS participants to be able to receive CAP-formatted messages. This will enable EAS participants not only to receive CAP-formatted alert messages, but also to redistribute those messages in the legacy EAS format over the current broadcast-based EAS. Specifically, CAP-formatted EAS alerts will be converted into and processed in the same way as messages formatted in the EAS protocol and will be used to generate enhanced visual displays for the viewers of the EAS station processing the CAP message.

In the ruling:
? The FCC requires EAS participants to be able to convert CAP-formatted EAS messages into messages set forth in the Industry Group's (ECIG's) ECIG Implementation Guide.
? The FCC requires EAS participants to monitor the A target="_new" href="http://www.fema.gov/emergency/ipaws/">FEMA IPAWS system for federal CAP-formatted alert messages using whatever interface technology is appropriate.
? The FCC permits with certain limitations EAS participants to use intermediary devices (i.e. CAP converters) to meet their CAP-related obligations.
? The FCC requires EAS participants to use the enhanced text in CAP messages to meet the video display requirements.
? The FCC adopts streamlined procedures for equipment certification that takeinto account standards and testing procedures adopted by FEMA.
? The FCC eliminates the requirement that EAS participants receive and transmit CAP-formatted messages initiated by state governors.
? The FCC streamlines the rules governing the processing of Emergency Action Notifications (EAN) and eliminate as unnecessary several provisions in Part 11, such as the Emergency Action Termination (EAT) event code and the Non-Participating National (NN) status.

The FCC notes that the updated rules will impose minimal new costs to broadcasters since many EAS participants have already purchased and installed CAP-compatible EAS equipment. The agency feels in many cases the rules will result in decreased costs by removing redundant or obsolete sections from the EAS rules.

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FCC Releases Fifth EAS Report and Order

Jan 12, 2012 8:50 AM

Some key decision points from the FCC order follow.

? The FCC adopts the transitional approach set forth in the Third FNPRM. Specifically, it continues the approach adopted by the Commission in the Second Report and Order and maintain the existing legacy EAS, including utilization of the SAME protocol. Under this transitional approach, the CAP-related changes to Part 11 we adopt in this order are limited to ensuring that EAS participants' EAS equipment will be capable of receiving and converting CAP-formatted messages into a SAME-compliant message. To be clear, EAS participant stations that are generally charged with encoding (regenerating) the EAS protocol codes (as AFSK tones) for the benefit of downstream stations monitoring their transmissions will continue that function with respect to alert messages they receive in the CAP format - just as they would for alert messages they receive in the SAME format. However, they will be generating the AFSK tones based upon the relevant EAS protocol codes contained within the CAP message, in conformance with the ECIG Implementation Guide, including the audio message contained in the CAP message, to the extent required under the rules.

? The FCC adopts its tentative conclusion in the Third FNPRM to amend section11.56 to require EAS participants to convert CAP-formatted EAS messages into SAME-compliant EAS messages in accordance with the ECIG Implementation Guide, except for its provisions on text-to-speech and gubernatorial CAP messages. As As the FCC noted in the Third FNPRM, adopting the ECIG Implementation Guide as the standard for translating CAP-formatted messages into SAME-compliant messages will harmonize CAP elements with the Part 11 rules, thus ensuring that CAP-formatted EAS messages are converted into SAME-compliant messages in a consistent, cost-efficient manner across devices and delivery platforms.

One area where the FCC deviates from the ECIG Implementation Guide, however, is its provisions on text-to-speech. The ECIG Implementation Guide procedures for constructing the audio from a CAP message require that "undefinedf attached EAS audio is not present, and the EAS device supports text-to-speech technology, then text-to-speech audio shall be rendered ... and used as the audio portion of the EAS alert."

? The FCC rules that it is unrealistic to require EAS participants adhere to a specific technical standard for CAP monitoring. The technical parameters of the IPAWS system are still evolving - and the digital world in which that system operates is evolving faster still. Trying to keep up with these changes while specifying the technical requirements for federal CAP monitoring in the Part 11 rules is neither practical nor administratively efficient. The FCC references the FEMA change from RSS 2.0 to ATOM shortly after the adoption of the Third FNPRM supports this conclusion. Section 11.52 of the rules has been modified to include a requirement that EAS participants' EAS equipment must interface with and monitor the IPAWS system to enable distribution of federal CAP-formatted alert messages from IPAWS to the EAS participants' EAS equipment.

? The FCC believes it is unnecessary to make any changes to the minimum encoder requirements set forth in section 11.32(a) regarding CAP-to-SAME conversion. The conversion of CAP-to-SAME is primarily a decoding function that CAP-compliant EAS equipment is designed to perform.

? The FCC has revised section 11.33(a)(11) to ensure that EAN messages receive priority over all other EAS messages, regardless of whether the EAN message was received via the audio port or data port, or was formatted in SAME or CAP. This action is necessary because as currently written, section 11.33(a)(11) could be interpreted to require a preference for SAME-formatted EAN messages received via over-the-air broadcast monitoring over duplicate CAP versions of the same message received via the data input port.308 In any event, we agree with BWWG that such action is necessary to ensure that EAS equipment consistently gives EANs priority, regardless of how it receives them.309 This is a programming issue that should impose minimal costs, if any.

? The FCC amends section 11.21(a) to make clear that state EAS plans specify the monitoring assignments and the specific primary and backup path for SAME-formatted EANs and that the monitoring requirements for CAP-formatted EANs are set forth in section 11.52. The FCC also includes language that to the extent a state may distribute CAP-formatted EANs to EAS participants via its state alerting system, its state EAS plan must include specific and detailed information describing how such messages will be aggregated and delivered, just as it must for state CAP-formatted non-EAN messages. This requirement is closely related to what SECCs and LECCs already do to draft state EAS plans.

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FCC Releases Fifth EAS Report and Order

Jan 12, 2012 8:50 AM

? The FCC incorporates conformance with the ECIG Implementation Guide into its existing certification process. EAS equipment must be certified as CAP compliant because the FCC has amended Part 11 to require CAP-to-SAME conversion in conformance with the ECIG Implementation Guide, and thus, as part of the required Part 11 functions, it necessarily falls under Part 11's certification requirements. The FCC will require that any EAS device that performs the functions of converting CAP-formatted messages into a SAME-compliant message, including integrated CAP-capable EAS devices and intermediary devices be certified under our Part 11 rules.

? The FCC concludes that the mandate to receive and transmit CAP-formatted messages initiated by state governors is not necessary at this time and is potentially detrimental to effective deployment of CAP-based alerts and has eliminated the mandate from Part 11.

? With respect to the question of whether we should eliminate the EAS Operating Handbook, the FCC observes that the test data from the Nov. 9, 2011, nationwide EAS test may provide insight on this matter. The FCC feels it's premature to make any decisions on eliminating the EAS Operating Handbook until after it has reviewed the test data it has received from test. The FCC is deferring any action at this time.

? The FCC is eliminating the Participating National (NN) Source status on the grounds that it is not necessary. NN status references are being deleted from sections 11.18, 11.41, 11.54, and 11.55, deleting section 11.19 altogether. The FCC will require any existing stations operating under NN status to meet the full message-by-message EAN processing requirements and CAP-related requirements by the June 30, 2012, general deadline for processing CAP-formatted messages. The FCC says NN status does not appear to serve any purpose today because NN entities already are required to deploy a decoder that complies with all EAS message processing requirements and they follow all of the EAN processing requirements, except broadcasting the audio message. The FCC observed in the Third FNPRM that there are relatively few NN stations.

? The FCC was persuaded by commenters to retain the Attention Signal because it continues to serve a useful purpose in the EAS framework as an audio notification to the general public that an alert is about to be aired. Further, the Attention Signal is limited to no more than eight seconds. The FCC already requires the Signal to be no shorter than 8 seconds.

? The FCC reiterates that it lacks the authority to raise or distribute funds for EAS-related purposes and therefore cannot provide training for state and local emergency managers. The FCC will, however, hold workshops and summits as part of its outreach mission.

Other elements of the order update some rules that apply to visual displays for TV broadcasters. Some other aspects of Part 11 were updated to eliminate inconsistencies in the Rules and remove obsolete portions.

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