At the urging of virtually the entire broadcast and cable industry, as well as the communications engineering community, the FCC today granted an extension of time for broadcasters and other EAS participants to come into compliance with the new CAP reception requirements – putting off the need for compliance until September 30, 2011. CAP (the Common Alerting Protocol) is a new format to be used for collecting and distributing emergency communications alerts to all communications platforms. The FCC, when it adopted CAP, mandated compliance within 180 days of the publication of technical standards for the CAP-formatted alerts by FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Those standards were published on September 30, 2010. Immediately, questions arose about whether the entire communications industry could be ready to make the transition within that 180 day period (see our post here raising those questions after the FEMA adoption).
Specifically, there were questions about the ability of all the EAS participants being able to budget for the purchase of the equipment and to make those purchases and to then install the new equipment within the specified period. But more fundamentally, there were questions of whether there was even equipment ready to be deployed, as there was an issue as to whether FEMA and the FCC had to first certify CAP-enabled equipment, before it could be sold. Those questions remain unresolved. In today’s order, the FCC, while stating that it does not anticipate a further extension of the deadline, does state that it will initiate a rulemaking to determine if CAP equipment must be certified under Part 11 of the Commission’s rules. As part of that rulemaking, the Commission will seek comment on whether this extension is sufficient to give all EAS participants time to make the change. As the FCC repeatedly states that it does not intend any further extensions of the deadline, don’t count on more delays. But watch this proceeding as, while the Commission states that they intend to complete the process before the new deadline, unanticipated delays could conceivably further extend the mandatory adoption date.