Commission persuades itself that waiver of the original deadline is warranted.

With Thanksgiving less than 36 hours away, the Commission has given us all something to be thankful for: it has extended until September 30, 2011, the deadline for all EAS participants to implement the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) reception requirement. As we reported last month, that deadline originally fell on March 29, 2011, which would have given all affected parties precious little time to make the necessary arrangements. The additional six months provides some breathing room – but whether it will be enough remains to be seen. If you have questions about the CAP requirement, check out our posts from last month and from last April for background and related links.

Interestingly, the Commission says that it is waiving the March 29, 2011 deadline “on its own motion”. That’s interesting because not only had a bunch of folks questioned the adequacy of the original deadline months ago, but a petition specifically seeking extension of the deadline was filed in October.

The initial deadline had been set back (in non-date-specific terms) in 2007, when the Commission adopted new EAS rules, including the CAP reception requirement. The FCC specified back then that the CAP reception requirement would become effective 180 days after FEMA’s adoption of CAP, whenever that might occur. Late last year, FEMA announced that it planned to adopt a version of CAP as early as the third quarter of 2010. In anticipation of FEMA adoption, the FCC asked (in March, 2010) for comments on how the FCC’s rules might need to be revised to accommodate any FEMA-adopted CAP requirements. In response, pretty much everybody and his little brother told the Commission that 180 days wouldn’t be enough time. As summarized by the Commission, the commenters said that

a 180-day cycle does not comport with vendors’ and EAS Participants’ budgeting schedules and, moreover, is insufficient given the relatively small number of manufacturing companies versus the large number of EAS Participants, the need for customer testing and approval (which alone may take more than 180 days), insufficient guidance regarding whether the FCC would require certification of CAP-compliant equipment, FEMA’s recently announced conformance testing of such equipment, uncertainty regarding encoder/decoder reactions to an EAN (the national alert event code), and a lack of provision for unforeseen events.

And shortly after FEMA finally announced its own new standards in September, an impressive impressive array of broadcast and cable interests (including, among others, the NAB, the NCTA, 46 state broadcast associations, NPR, PBS) expressly petitioned for a six-month (or more) extension of the 180-day deadline for essentially the same reasons.

So it’s passing strange that the Commission is bothering to claim that it is now acting “on its own motion”, given the fact that the likely inadequacy of the initial deadline had been raised by multiple parties very early on. But be that as it may, the fact is that implementation of the CAP reception requirement has now been put off until September 30, 2011.

Note that, in its order, the Commission acknowledges that it still has some work of its own to do here: it plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking involving a “comprehensive review of the impact of CAP” on the EAS. That, obviously, could have an impact on issues relating to compliance with the CAP reception requirement. And while the Commission, maintaining that good stiff bureaucratic upper lip, advises that it doesn’t contemplate any further waivers of the CAP rules beyond September 30, 2011, it still hedges by assuring one and all that it reserves the right to further extend the deadline if it feels like it.

Happy Thanksgiving.