FCC Further Extends EAS CAP-Compliance Deadline

Paul A. Cicelski As I reported last month, my colleague Dick Zaragoza and I filed a Petition with the FCC asking for a further extension of the deadline for EAS Participants to implement the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) standard for the Emergency Alert System (EAS). We filed the Petition on behalf of representatives of all EAS Participants, which included the State Broadcasters Associations, representing all fifty States and the District of Columbia, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Broadcast Warning Working Group, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the American Cable Association, National Public Radio, the Association of Public Television Stations, and the Public Broadcasting Service. Today, the FCC released an Order agreeing with the need for an extension and changing the CAP deadline from September 30, 2011 to June 30, 2012. The extension means that the thousands of EAS Participants across the country now have additional time to acquire and install the equipment needed to become CAP-compliant. In its Order, the FCC agreed with the arguments made in the Petition by the broadcast and cable industries that a later deadline was necessary in light of the regulatory uncertainty that remains regarding what is necessary for CAP compliance, particularly because the FCC's EAS Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (released in May and which we reported on here) will undoubtedly lead to significant EAS rule changes that could alter the requirements for EAS Participants in a way that would impact the manner in which they will go about buying, installing, testing and operating new CAP-compliant EAS equipment. In short, the extension will enable EAS Participants to review and adapt to the final rules adopted or altered in the EAS proceeding. According to the FCC's Order, the extension is warranted because "until the Commission has completed its rulemaking process, it cannot meaningfully impose a deadline by which EAS Participants must be able to receive CAP-formatted alerts." The Commission further stated that no one "can comply with section 11.56 yet, because the Commission has not finalized all the key technical specifics necessary for receiving CAP-formatted alerts" and that it is "unlikely that the Commission can address all of the issues raised in the Third FNPRM and ensure that the corresponding Part 11 rule amendments are adopted and effective prior to the current September 30, 2011 deadline." Primarily for these reasons, the FCC extended the deadline to allow "adequate time to evaluate the impact of any changes to Part 11 before being required to comply with regulations the full impact of which cannot yet be known." On another positive note, the Commission's extension of the CAP-compliance deadline may allow the first-ever National EAS Test scheduled by FEMA and the FCC (set for November 9, 2011) to run more smoothly. The hope is that, as argued in the Petition, the extension of the CAP-compliance deadline until June of next year will allow participants in the scheduled November 9, 2011 National EAS test to focus on the success of that test instead of being concerned with the functioning of newly-installed EAS equipment. For those interested in more background on the National EAS test, we previously reported on it here and here). With this most recent extension of the EAS CAP deadline, we hope we will be able to later report that the national test went smoothly.

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