FCC Proposes Changes to EAS

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The Federal Communications Commission has proposed new rules that would strengthen the Emergency Alert System (EAS), the country’s nationwide public warning system, through which broadcasters, cable providers, and other participants delivery emergency information to Americans.  The new FCC proposals are designed to “improve EAS by facilitating involvement on the state and local levels, supporting greater testing and awareness of the EAS, leveraging technological advances, and enhancing EAS security.”  Specifically, the prospective rules contained in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), if implemented, would:  (1) authorize state and local alert originators and EAS participants to conduct periodic “live” EAS tests; (2) allow federal, state and local governments to issue public service announcements using the EAS Attention Signal “sound”, provided that those announcements are presented in a non-misleading and technically harmless manner; and (3) encourage more strategic engagement in EAS at the state and local levels by streamlining, automating and improving the utility of state EAS plans filed with the FCC.  Additionally, through the NPRM, the FCC seeks comment on:  (1) measures to enhance EAS security; (2) assessing and meeting public expectations for receiving alerts as content is viewed across different technological platforms; (3) whether individuals with limited English language proficiency and/or disabilities are adequately receiving alerts; and (4) whether cable providers, through recent technological advancements, have been able to offer more specific and informative alert content.  Comments are due 45 days after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register and reply comments are due 75 days after the NPRM’s publication in the Federal Register.

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