FCC Releases Fifth EAS Report and Order

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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 "[i]f 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.

- continued on page 3

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