Last minute reprieve gives FCC, EAS participants nine extra months of breathing space

The Commission has announced that the deadline for complying with the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) requirements has been extended until June 30, 2012. Good thing, too, since the previous deadline was September 30, 2011, a scant two weeks away. Of course, given the number of still unresolved issues on the CAP front, most observers figured that an extension was an odds-on mortal lock, but “most observers” don’t carry quite the same clout as five (or even just three) Commissioners.

If you’re still a little hazy on what CAP entails, check out our post from April, 2010. The fact that all EAS participants are going to have to be CAP-ready eventually has been a given since at least 2007. However, the transition to CAP technology has involved both the FCC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a lethal mixture when it comes to scheduling anything. Both agencies had to adopt new rules and standards, and before the FCC could do its thing it had to wait for FEMA to do its thing. As a result, while the Commission’s rules currently mandate that “all EAS Participants must be able to receive CAP-formatted alerts”, even the Commission admits that nobody can comply with that requirement just yet, because the Commission still hasn’t finalized the specs which will establish precisely what it means to “receive CAP-formatted alerts”.

The Commission may be on the final lap of its work, but until it hits the finish line, loose ends will remain. Because of that, the deadline for EAS participants to comply has been put off twice already – from the original March, 2011 date to September 30, 2011, and now to June 30, 2012. While that should be plenty of time for the Commission to wrap things up, you never know. Still, for planning and budgeting purposes, all affected folks should probably assume that the June, 2012 deadline will stick this time. We’ll let you know of any further developments.

One word of caution. Since the Commission doesn’t have its new CAP rules in place, it also is not in a position to certify any particular equipment as CAP-compliant. But that hasn’t stopped some equipment suppliers from marketing “intermediate” devices designed to provide some CAP capabilities. With such devices in mind, the Commission has “reminded” all EAS participants that

equipment that meets the definition of an encoder or a decoder under our rules must be certified under Section 11.34 of the Commission’s current rules. In addition, equipment used to receive CAP-formatted EAS alerts must, at a minimum, comply with the CAP requirements the Commission adopted in the Second Report and Order.

Bottom line – anybody that has bought some such “intermediate device” should be sure to verify, with the gear’s manufacturer and/or vendor, that the gear does in fact comply with Commission rules that are already on the books.