FCC Requests Comments on Multimedia Content in Wireless Emergency Alerts
Thursday, March 29, 2018 | Comments

The FCC invited interested parties to update the record on the feasibility of including multimedia content in wireless emergency alert (WEA) messages.

The commission’s rules do not specify technical requirements for enabling multimedia content in WEA alert messages. In a 2016 WEA report and order and further notice of proposed rulemaking, the FCC recognized that additional standards development remains necessary. Accordingly, the commission sought comment regarding the establishment of an appropriate regulatory framework and timeframe for incorporating multimedia capability into WEA alert messages.

Since then, the FCC has taken measures to strengthen WEA as a tool for emergency managers to communicate with the public. For example, the commission revised its rules to ensure that emergency managers can geographically target alerts to only those phones located in areas affected by an emergency.

In addition, the FCC took action to improve emergency managers’ ability to deliver more effective content in WEA messages. For example, as of Nov. 1, nationwide participating commercial mobile service providers must support the inclusion of embedded references such as URLs and phone numbers in WEA messages. By May 1, 2019, participating providers also must support longer WEA alerts with the maximum alert message length increasing from 90 to 360 characters for Long Term Evolution (LTE) and future networks and the transmission of Spanish-language alert messages.

Also as of May 1, 2019, authorized state and local alert initiators will be able to conduct “end-to-end” WEA tests that can be received by members of their communities to assess how WEA is working within their jurisdictions.

The FCC requested that interested commenters refresh the record with any new information or arguments. Commenters should address the technical feasibility for requiring multimedia content in WEA messages, including the current state of multimedia testing and standards development. Commenters should also address with particularity the potential costs and benefits to public safety and participating providers for supporting the inclusion of multimedia content in WEA messages, given the other changes to WEA that are ongoing.

Comments will be due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. The full notice is here.

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