CMS providers who opted into the CMAS are looking at a fast-approaching deadline; so are providers who didn’t opt in.
Four years ago the Commission devised the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS). You may know CMAS as the “Personal Localized Alerting Network” (PLAN) or “Wireless Emergency Alerts” (WEA). Whatever you call it, it’s a voluntary service through which wireless providers deliver emergency alerts and warnings from FEMA to their customers. In 2009, the Commission announced the timetable for roll-out of CMAS – a 28-month period that just happens to end in about three weeks, on April 7, 2012.
About 98% of all commercial mobile services (CMS) providers have signed up to be part of the CMAS. If you’re one of them, heads up. You’ve got until April 7 to begin sending the alerts out to cell phones and other mobile devices. Since the 28 months since the timetable announcement have supposedly been devoted to an extended process of development and testing (over the first ten months) and implementation and deployment (the last 18 months) involving all concerned, the fast-approaching deadline shouldn’t be a big surprise. But if this particular chore has somehow slipped off your to-do list, now would be a good time to put it back on the list, probably toward the top.
And those 2% of you who chose not be CMAS participants, you’re not off the hook. The CMAS rules require that you notify your customers and prospective customers that you will not be providing emergency alerts throughout all or part of your service area. And those notifications have got to be in place by May 15, 2012, according to a recent notice from the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.
The Commission’s rules provide the specific language to be used for these notifications. With respect to new or prospective customers, non-participating CMS providers who are not participating at all in CMAS must provide “clear and conspicuous” notice, at the point-of-sale, as follows:
NOTICE TO NEW AND EXISTING SUBSCRIBERS REGARDING TRANSMISSION OF WIRELESS EMERGENCY ALERTS (Commercial Mobile Alert Service)
[[CMS provider]] presently does not transmit wireless emergency alerts. Notice required by FCC Rule 47 CFR 10.240 (Commercial Mobile Alert Service).
CMS providers who are participating only “in part” must use the following language (also at point-of-sale):
NOTICE REGARDING TRANSMISSION OF WIRELESS EMERGENCY ALERTS (Commercial Mobile Alert Service)
[[CMS provider]] has chosen to offer wireless emergency alerts within portions of its service area, as defined by the terms and conditions of its service agreement, on wireless emergency alert capable devices. There is no additional charge for these wireless emergency alerts.
Wireless emergency alerts may not be available on all devices or in the entire service area, or if a subscriber is outside of the [[CMS provider]] service area. For details on the availability of this service and wireless emergency alert capable devices, please ask a sales representative, or go to [[CMS provider's URL]].
Notice required by FCC Rule 47 CFR 10.240 (Commercial Mobile Alert Service).
For purposes of this rule, “point-of-sale” refers to any venue (e.g., stores, kiosks, third-party resellers, websites) through which the provider’s devices and services are marketed.
As to existing customers, providers must distribute an announcement amending the customer’s service agreement to include the appropriate notification language quoted above – except that the reference to “47 CFR 10.240” should be changed to “47 CFR 10.250”. The announcement should be sent to prepaid customers by first class mail (assuming that the provider has the necessary address). When addresses aren’t available, the provider must use “any reasonable method at its disposal” to (a) advise customers of the change in the terms and conditions of service and (b) directing them to voice-based notification or to a website providing the required notification.