ACA Asks FCC To Clarify EAS Rules

The cable trade group wants an extension of the EAS CAP reception deadline while the commission prepares definitive guidance for cable operators.

The American Cable Association is urging the FCC to clarify key Emergency Alert System (EAS) rules and postpone the Sept. 30 deadline for the Common Alert Protocol (CAP) mandate in order to give EAS participants sufficient time to be certain that the actions they take will indeed comply with final CAP requirements.

“Cable operators need certainty that their investment in CAP equipment and solutions actually produces compliance and does so in the most cost effective means,” ACA President-CEO Matthew M. Polka said. “ACA believes that the EAS CAP Reception deadline should be generally extended. 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.”

ACA submitted comments July 20 in response to the FCC’s rulemaking seeking comment on a series of proposed changes to EAS regulations to clarify obligations related to the processing of alert messages using CAP.  ACA said there are significant 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 FCC must first answer these questions before companies and equipment vendors can respond and companies come into compliance with CAP requirements,” it said.  “All of this will take time, making compliance with the rapidly approaching Sept. 30, 2011, CAP Reception deadline all but impossible.”

ACA’s comments also stressed that in addition to the need for a general extension for all EAS participants, small and medium-size operators specifically need 12 additional months beyond that date.  ACA explained how technology vendors initially devote their limited advertising budget and sales force on meeting the needs of larger operators, and do not focus on smaller operators and their unique concerns until later.

Further, ACA said that with most government imposed technology mandates that have industry-wide deadlines, equipment shortages are not uncommon, and equipment that is available is typically offered first to operators that purchase the greatest volume. 

Lastly, ACA said that smaller operators with smaller staffs are less able to keep up with regulatory obligations, and may be less aware of pending deadlines, unlike larger operators with larger staffs.  For all of these reasons, ACA argued that it is reasonable to grant cable operators with 1.5 million subscribers or fewer an additional 12 months beyond the date of compliance for larger operators.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

In addition to asking for an additional 12 months beyond the deadline for larger operators, ACA offered the following recommendations:

• Exempt small systems of 500 subscribers or fewer from EAS-compliance.

• Exempt small systems without wired broadband Internet access from compliance.

• Establish a hardship waiver process for individual companies similar to what was done for the initial implementation of EAS.


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