In the latest step toward implementing the Commercial Mobile Alert System ("CMAS"), the FCC has adopted rules requiring NCE television stations to install equipment on their digital transmitters within the next two years (approximately). In keeping with its "technological neutrality" posture, the Commission has not specified particular equipment or technologies which must be utilized, BUT the Commission has nevertheless highlighted APTS’s recommendations of the types of equipment that will be needed – the obvious implication being that APTS’s recommendations should be the obvious first choice for anyone looking to assure compliance. The FCC further presumes but does not require that the Public Broadcasting System will take on the role of providing the interface feed between stations and the CMAS.
In this Second Report & Order in the CMAS proceeding, the FCC clarified that noncommercial educational (NCE) broadcast television stations, but not NCE radio stations, must comply with the Congressional mandate to install equipment on their digital transmitters to enable geographic targeting of mobile phone emergency alerts. The FCC concluded the language in Section 602(c) of the WARN Act specifically pointing to "broadcast television digital signal transmitters" clearly reflected Congress’s intent to limit the obligation to television and, therefore, to exempt radio.
NCE TV operators need not worry about incurring costs in acquiring and installing the newly-mandated gear: all NCE stations subject to the requirement will be compensated for reasonable costs of compliance by the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information (that would be our friends at NTIA, dipping into the same fund being depleted by DTV converter box coupons – these are your tax dollars at work). As it is expected that many stations will need to request funding in advance in order to complete the installation, the equipment installation deadline is the latter of the following dates: 18 months from the receipt of this funding, or 18 months from the effective date of the order (60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which has not occurred as of the date of this post).
Since the FCC will apparently be looking to PBS to provide the interface feed, it is not clear how non-PBS NCE stations will be factored into the system. This will presumably be one of a number of questions which will (ideally) be clarified in the coming months.