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ACA Asks FCC To Clarify EAS Rules and Postpone CAP Mandates Until Agency Provides Clear Guidance To Operators

Trade Group Seeks Extension of EAS CAP Reception Deadline While FCC Prepares Definitive Guidance

PITTSBURGH, July 21 2011 - The American Cable Association urged the Federal Communications Commission to clarify key Emergency Alert System (EAS) rules and postpone the September 30 deadline for the Common Alert Protocol (CAP) mandate in order to give EAS participants sufficient time to be certain that the actions they take will indeed comply with final CAP requirements.

"Cable operators need certainty that their investment in CAP equipment and solutions actually produces compliance and does so in the most cost effective means," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. "ACA believes that the EAS CAP Reception deadline should be generally extended. This will give the FCC time to provide much needed guidance and certainty as to the obligations being placed on the EAS participant, including the compliance options available to cable operators and time for the vendor market to react."

ACA submitted comments July 20 in response to the FCC's Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) seeking comment on a series of proposed changes to EAS regulations to clarify obligations related to the processing of alert messages using CAP.  As reflected in the FNPRM, there are significant unanswered questions regarding the codification of specific obligations for CAP functionality, the incorporation of that functionality into the FCC's existing equipment certification scheme, the use of intermediary devices for compliance, and the certification of such devices.  The FCC must first answer these questions before companies and equipment vendors can respond and companies come into compliance with CAP requirements.  All of this will take time, making compliance with the rapidly approaching September 30, 2011, CAP Reception deadline all but impossible. 

ACA's comments also stressed that in addition to the need for a general extension for all EAS participants, small and medium size operators specifically need 12 additional months beyond that date.  ACA explained how technology vendors initially devote their limited advertising budget and sales force on meeting the needs of larger operators, and do not focus on smaller operators and their unique concerns until later. 

Further, ACA explained that with most government imposed technology mandates that have industrywide deadlines, equipment shortages are not uncommon, and equipment that is available is typically offered first to operators that purchase the greatest volume.  Lastly, ACA explained that smaller operators with smaller staffs are less able to keep up with regulatory obligations, and may be less aware of pending deadlines, unlike larger operators with larger staffs.  For all of these reasons, ACA argued that it is reasonable to grant cable operators with 1.5 million subscribers or fewer an additional 12 months beyond the date of compliance for larger operators.

 

"ACA and its member companies understand the importance of complying with updated EAS requirements.  However, to benefit their communities, small companies with limited resource need time to understand the best solutions for their systems and make wise purchasing decisions."

In addition to asking for an additional 12 months beyond the deadline for larger operators, ACA offered the following recommendations:

  • Exempt small systems of 500 subscribers or fewer from EAS-compliance;
  • Exempt small systems without wired broadband Internet access from CAP-compliance; and
  • Establish a hardship waiver process for individual companies similar to what was done for the initial implementation of EAS.

About the American Cable Association

Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 900 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7.6 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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