Draft WEA Order Would Adopt Several FCC Proposals

A draft report and order tentatively scheduled for consideration at the FCC’s Sept. 29 meeting would adopt several of the proposals included in a notice of proposed rulemaking in the agency’s wireless emergency alert (WEA) proceeding, an FCC official told TRDaily today.

The NPRM adopted last year proposed to increase the length of WEA messages from 90 to 360 characters, to permit alerts to include embedded phone numbers and URLs, to establish a new class of emergency government information alerts to enable public safety advisories such as “boil water” recommendations or shelter locations in emergencies, to require carriers to deliver alerts to smaller geographic areas that are more relevant to the public, and to facilitate WEA service testing by state and local authorities and personnel training (TRDaily, Nov. 19, 2015). The item also sought comment on whether alerts should be supported in languages other than English.

The draft report and order circulated to Commissioners yesterday in PS docket 15-91 (TRDaily, Sept. 8) addresses each of those proposals, the FCC official said. It would increase the maximum length of WEA messages to 360 characters, limit the use of embedded phones numbers and other information to Amber Alerts, establish the new class of emergency government information alerts, require carriers to deliver alerts to small geographic areas, and facilitate WEA testing by state and local authorities and personnel training, the official said. The order would also require providers to support alerts in Spanish.

A draft further notice of proposed rulemaking would seek information on what kinds of technologies could be used to further improve WEAs and explores whether alerts should be supported in languages other than English and Spanish. It also solicits opinions on better ways to inform consumers about WEAs.

In response to the NPRM, the wireless industry and local, state, and federal public safety agencies and groups disagreed on how far the FCC should go to upgrade WEAs (TRDaily, Jan. 14). Many industry entities said they oppose some proposed changes supported by public safety, including enabling alerts to include URLs, embedded phone numbers, and multimedia content, and requiring alerts to be delivered to smaller geographic areas. They also cautioned the Commission to set reasonable transition periods for any changes. However, the proposal to increase the length of messages from 90 to 360 characters drew widespread support, although some industry players said the length should remain 90 characters for 2G and 3G services. There was also some industry support for the public safety-backed delivery of alerts in languages other than English and for establishing a new class of emergency government information alerts. – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily