emergency alert system

On July 13, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) released a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed at improving the reliability of the nation’s Emergency Alert System (“EAS”). This action comes six months after a well-publicized false ballistic missile alert that caused widespread confusion and concern in Hawaii, which the FCC observed “underscore[d] the need to streamline [its] testing processes and to ensure proper safeguards are in place.” The FCC explained that the rule changes “will help alert initiators, as well as EAS Participants to develop the skills necessary to effectively use the EAS.” EAS Participants are radio and television broadcast stations, cable systems, wireline video systems, wireless cable systems, direct broadcast satellite service providers, and digital audio radio service providers. In an unusual move, Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly dissented in part from the item, citing concerns about “alert fatigue” and suggesting that the Commission may be “overstepping” its bounds by requiring communications providers to provide false alert reports.

Continue Reading

At the December Open Meeting of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), the Commissioners approved a Report and Order (“Order”) that adopts a new form of emergency alerting, Blue Alerts, which would serve to inform the public of actionable threats to state or local law enforcement.  Once the new alert is implemented, radio and TV broadcasters and a variety of other video providers will broadcast emergency alerts much as they do for weather and other emergencies.  Wireless telephone providers also may transmit the alerts through their emergency notification system.  The action was adopted less than six months after the rulemaking proposal was initiated, a significantly shorter time period than that in which the Commission typically acts.

Continue Reading