ACA: Lack of EAS Waiver Could Be Disaster

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Washington — The American Cable Association was
not happy with the Federal Communications Commission’s
proposed revamp of the emergency alert system
(EAS), saying last week it could force the shutdown of some
of the small, independent cable systems it represents.

ACA president Matt Polka called the FCC’s Report &
Order “terribly disappointing” and said it should be rethought.
An ACA spokesperson said it is considering officially petitioning the FCC to reconsider the decision.

The ACA was particularly unhappy with the FCC’s decision
not to extend a blanket waiver from Common Alerting
Protocol compliance to systems that do not have a physical
Internet connection at their head-ends — as is the case
with a number of its members, Polka said — and the FCC’s
suggestion that the waivers it issues on a case-by-case basis
will likely be for six months only.

“Thus, cable operators that can’t afford to comply with
the FCC’s EAS mandates will be required to engage in a
waiver process that could cost even more,” Polka said.

And while the alert is meant to help avert disaster,
Polka suggested the FCC’s order could create a doomsday
scenario for some of the smallest and most vulnerable.
“The majority of systems that do not have a physical
Internet connection serve from a few dozen to a few hundred
subscribers,” he said in a statement. “Most are struggling
to break even today, and some are losing money. Their
inability to shoulder the cost of new regulatory burdens,
both through EAS-CAP compliance and a waiver process,
will likely lead some to shut down their cable systems prematurely.”

In its order, the FCC referred to ACA’s warnings about
systems going under, but said that it did not believe it
should adopt any form of blanket waiver. While it did not
agree to a blanket waiver for systems that would need to
replace old equipment or get broadband access, it said the
unavailability of that broadband would be a presumption
in favor of a waiver, since it makes no sense to require
equipment that can’t be used.