FCC amends Emergency Alert System rules

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FCC amends Emergency Alert System rules

In addition to FCC requirements for e911 for supposedly "protecting the consumer", the FCC today also moved to amend the Emergency Alert System (EAS) rules to include Digital Media Technologies and seeks further comments on EAS System. You know the drill - "<tone><tone>This is test... This is only a test. If this were a real emergency you would..."

Essentially, with digital IPTV, satellite radio, satellite TV, etc. the ability for the Emergency Alert System to notify residents of emergency weather conditions (tornado, freezing rain, etc.), terrorist attack, etc. is being tested by these new technologies. Below is an excerpt from the FCC's website discussing EAS. My only question is will the FCC require IPTV service providers - including their pals over at SBC which offers IPTV - to fully comply with EAS within 120 days like they've done with VoIP e911 rules? Hmmm?

One of the most fundamental and significant statutory mandates of the Federal Communications Commission (Commission) is the promotion of safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communication. For over forty years, the Commission has sought to satisfy this mandate in large part by requiring that the American public be provided with an effective and robust national alert and warning system.Since 1994, this function has been performed by the Emergency Alert System (EAS), which is jointly administered by the Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), one of the component agencies of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Commerce and its component, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service (NWS). Today, we take steps to advance our important public safety mission by adopting rules that expand the reach of EAS, as currently constituted, to cover digital communications technologies that are increasingly being used by the American public to receive news and entertainment -- digital television and radio, digital cable,and satellite television and radio.

Consumers have increasingly begun to adopt new digital technologies as replacements for the analog broadcast and cable systems that are currently required to implement EAS.Accordingly, an increasingly large percentage of television viewers and radio listeners receive their programming from systems that may have no independent duty to provide EAS, or any other alert and warning system, to their customers.For example, as of 2005, almost 25% of TV households subscribed to Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) services,yet such satellite services are under no obligation to participate in EAS.More than 23% of TV households subscribe to digital cable television services which are not specifically addressed in the Commission's EAS rules. Further, the number of subscribers in the Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service (SDARS) -- also known as "satellite radio" -- increased from approximately 140,000 to more than 6 million between June 2002 and June 2005. SDARS licensees are not currently required to participate in EAS.Finally, digital audio broadcasters using in-band, on-channel (IBOC) technology and digital television (DTV) broadcasters also reach increasingly large portions of the American public,but currently have no EAS obligations.Clearly, some level of EAS participation must be established for these new digital services to ensure that large portions of the American public are able to receive national and/or regional public alerts and warnings.

In the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, we seek further comment on how to amend the EAS rules to ensure that EAS messages more effectively reach individuals with hearing and vision disabilities.The Commission is committed to ensuring that persons with disabilities have equal access to public warnings.We also seek additional comment on what actions the Commission, along with our Federal, State and industry partners, should take to help expedite the development of a robust, state-of-the-art, digitally-based public alert and warning system.

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