The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International and Harris County, Texas said today that they are pleased with changes the FCC made to a wireless emergency alert (WEA) item before it was adopted yesterday (TR Daily, Jan. 30). “Upon reviewing the text of the Order, APCO is pleased to see that the Commission incorporated many of the recommendations made by the public safety stakeholders in this proceeding,” said APCO Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Derek Poarch.
“Public safety officials in Harris County are pleased that the FCC has ruled in favor of the geographic targeting enhancements and the adjustments that developed through the process. We look forward to working with wireless carriers and technology experts to implement the new rules in a timely manner,” said Francisco Sanchez, deputy emergency management coordinator at the Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management.
APCO, Harris County, and other public safety entities had asked the FCC to clarify the new rules to, among others things, make it harder for participating WEA carriers to avoid implementing the more precise geo-targeting requirement.
For example, they said carriers should only be able to claim that they are technically incapable of matching a specified target area if the target area is outside of their service area, when location services of devices are disabled, or when legacy networks can’t be updated to support the enhanced functionality. They also asked the Commission to require carriers to transmit polygon coordinates for alerts without lowering the 360-character allotment for the alerts themselves. And they sought a reporting mandate that would require carriers to tell the Commission which devices were capable of being upgraded to meet the enhanced geo-targeting mandate.
A public safety source told TR Daily today that the second report and order, which was adopted along with a second order on reconsideration in PS dockets 15-91 and 15-94 and released today, addresses these issues.
For example, the Commission added language in footnote 44 saying, “Technical incapability does not include circumstances in which CMS Providers cannot match the target area using network-based solutions and decline to pursue other available technologies.” The footnote now cites concerns by public safety entities that carriers may try to argue that they cannot technically comply with the new mandate by November 2019.
Also, the FCC’s rule now says, “A Participating CMS Provider’s network infrastructure may be considered technically incapable of matching the target area in limited circumstances, including when the target area is outside of the Participating CMS Provider’s network coverage area, when mobile devices have location services disabled, and when legacy networks or devices cannot be updated to support this functionality.”
It also says, “In matching the target area, Participating CMS Providers may not limit the availability of 360 characters for the Alert Message text.”
The public safety source also said the reporting requirement sought by public safety entities was satisfied by language inserted at the request of Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn that would mandate new consumer disclosure requirements to make sure consumers are aware at the point of sale of whether a carrier offers enhanced geo-targeting capabilities.
CTIA and other industry entities also sought changes to the draft WEA item before it was adopted. They objected to the 2019 deadline for enhanced geo-targeting and also said that the FCC should clarify that best practices will determine whether the 360-character limit will be impacted by the transmission of target polygons.
The item released today also says that the FCC “is continuing to consider the WEA FNPRM’s proposals regarding point of sale disclosures, multimedia, multilingual, and many-to-one alerting and will consider any additional presentations made on those topics along with other materials in the record. We direct the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to issue a Public Notice within one month of the Second Report and Order’s publication to further develop the record on multimedia alerting.”
Commissioner Clyburn said she pushed for a further notice on multimedia alerts, but that her colleagues refused but agreed to task the Public Safety Bureau with issuing a public notice.
Meanwhile, Sens. Kamala D. Harris (D., Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) commended the FCC today for adopting the WEA item.
“Public safety is jeopardized when inadequate resources and technological shortcomings result in tragedy. In California, shortcomings in the Wireless Emergency Alert system recently led to local officials being unable to alert communities of imminent danger. As our state continues to recover from a record wildfire season, we need to continue to enhance the ability of officials to notify people during times of emergency. We cannot wait any longer to make improvements to their geo-targeting capabilities,” the senators said. “We thank the Federal Communications Commission for responding to the concerns that we first raised last fall, and are pleased they are moving forward to make the system a more effective emergency response tool for communities across the country. Going forward we will do all we can to expedite the implementation of these improvements, make sure they are successful, and work to examine other ways to improve Wireless Emergency Alerts.”- Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org