FCC Approves 3 EAS Alert Requirement Waiver Requests, Denies Two
Friday, February 07, 2020 | Comments

The FCC approved petitions for waiver of obligation to receive and process Emergency Alert System (EAS) alerts formatted in the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) from CableAmerica, KJAY and West River Cable Television. The commission also denied similar waivers for Argent Communications and Universal Cablevision.

The FCC requires that broadcasters, cable systems and other service providers required to distribute EAS alerts be capable of receiving CAP-formatted alert messages within 180 days after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) published its adoption of a CAP standard for use with the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System.

In a report and order, the FCC observed that because the primary method of distributing CAP messages is via broadband internet connections, the physical availability of broadband internet access would be required for compliance with the requirements that EAS participants be able to receive CAP-based alerts. Thus, the FCC concluded that unavailability of broadband internet service would constitute a factor in determining a waiver of the CAP requirement. The commission also observed, however, that broadband internet access might become available at some point after a waiver has been granted, and that alternate means of distributing CAP alert messages, such as satellite delivery, might also become available, thus removing the basis for granting the waiver. For this reason, the Commission indicated that any waiver based on the physical unavailability of broadband Internet access likely would not exceed six months, with the option of renewal if circumstances have not changed.

The FCC granted temporary waiver of the CAP obligations to CableAmerica and KJAY because it determined that they lacked access to broadband connections.

West River said that it would not be economically unfeasible to install new CAP-capable equipment and IP connections on its four cable systems. The company said that it would likely terminate service within 30 days if it did not receive a waiver of the rules. The FCC ruled that it had granted CAP waivers in the past to allow EAS participants to discontinue operations of noncompliant systems in a manner that is least disruptive to subscribers. The commission determined that West River’s case was sufficiently similar and granted its waiver request.

Universal also said that it was not economically feasible to install new Cap capable system and IP connections in its small cable system. Universal went out of business in 2015. For Universal, the FCC said although the company did not expressly request time to wind down its operation in the alternative to a grant of its waiver request, that position appears to be characterized in its petition, which was borne out by its subsequent dissolution. 35 FCC staff were unable, however, to obtain more details concerning the status of Universal’s system, such as the date upon which its cable service was discontinued, prior to its dissolution. In light of Universal’s dissolution, the FCC dismissed its waiver as moot.

The FCC deemed Argent’s petition incomplete and said that the company did not provide additional information, so it’s request was dismissed.

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