This is the first in a series of 4 reports on the recent National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention held April 9-14 in Las Vegas, NV.

The highlight of this year’s NAB Convention for those in Alerts and Warnings was the Wednesday morning session entitled, “Next-Generation EAS: The Final Stretch”. Of prime interest to broadcasters is the status of the forthcoming FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) announcing needed changes to the EAS Part 11 rules to reflect Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) messaging. Both James Barnett and Greg Cooke from the FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau used the terms “very soon”, “very, very close” and “quite soon” to describe the release date for the proposed new rules. Watch the FCC website for a release any day now.

With the action of FEMA last September adopting CAP for EAS usage, a countdown clock for broadcasters and cable operators was started at that time, with the requirement for EAS-CAP gear to be installed by September 30, 2011. Questions were raised during the Q&A segment of the session whether FCC could even have the new rules in place by the September 30 deadline. Greg Cooke clarified that the proposed EAS rules could be fast-tracked to appear in the Federal Register within a week, go through a Comment Period of only 30 days, and a Reply Comment Period of just 15 days. After considering the public comments, the Commission would then publish the final EAS-CAP rules. While these public comment periods seem very short for such an important ruling, that was the timeline proposed by the FCC.

Greg Cooke also underscored that the Commission has reserved the right to extend the deadline past September 30, 2011. He explained that the criteria for extending the deadline would be: if adequate EAS-CAP equipment is available to supply the nation, the status of equipment certification (he wasn’t clear if that was FEMA or FCC-based equipment testing), and if broadcasters and cable operators will have the money to acquire EAS-CAP gear by the deadline. It was pointed out by EAS-CAP equipment manufacturers in the room that their estimates are that 30-35% of broadcasters and 80% of cable operators already have purchased and installed EAS-CAP units. It was also noted in another comment from the audience that broadcasters and cable operators have known for a long time that EAS-CAP gear would be needed, and thus should have budgeted for it long ago. Check back with AWARE Forum for an analysis of the proposed rules, once released.

In our next NAB Convention Report, we will address monumental developments by FEMA in the area of EAS-CAP training.

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