EAS Blue Alert Code Becomes Effective January 18, 2019

By Larry Wilkins, CPBE, chair, SBE EAS Advisory Group

In January 2018 the FCC amended its regulations governing the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) to add a new event code, BLU, to allow alert originators to issue an alert whenever a law enforcement officer is injured or killed, missing in connection with his or her official duties, or there is an imminent and credible threat to cause death or serious injury to law enforcement officers.

Delivery of Blue Alerts over EAS will be implemented January 18, 2019.

Sage Endec users: Update firmware will be available next week.

DasDec users: The BLU event code is in the v4.0 software update.

Trilithic/Viavi: includes BLU event code in its v18.10 software update.

Gorman-Redlich: has a update, contact their office for details

As a reminder the BLU event code is in the “voluntary” list, that is, it is not one of the FCC required relay alerts (EAN, NPT, RMT). Stations can elect to relay these alerts or not, with guidance from their state and local EAS plan.

Broadcasters and Cable Operators should watch for information updates from your SECC (State Emergency Communication Committee).

Blue Alerts over WEA takes effect July 18, 2019.

Read the FCC ruling.

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Senate Moves READI Act Forward

By Larry Wilkins, CPBE, chair, SBE EAS Advisory Group

Just before the end of the year, the Senate passed the READI (Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement) Act, a bipartisan bill meant to improve the Emergency Alert System, extend it to new platforms, and avoid a repeat of the false alarm nuclear missile strike alert in Hawaii that drew an FCC investigation.

While most of the points in the bill deal with the creation and origination of EAS alerts, one item is of interest to broadcasters: It would allow broadcasters to repeat presidential and FEMA alerts, something they can’t do now.

The bill still must be passed by the House and approved by the president, after which it will be sent to the FCC and FEMA to work out details of implementation, followed by an FCC notice of rule changes. So, it will be some time before any changes to the way EAS Alerts are created and/or distributed.

The SBE will continue to issue updates as the bill moves through the approval process.

SBE Files FCC Comments on Flex Use of 3.7-4.2 GHz

The Society of Broadcast Engineers, the association for broadcast and multimedia technology professionals, filed comments on Oct. 29, 2018, with the FCC in response to the notice of proposed rulemaking (FCC 18-91), released July 13, 2018. That notice sought comment on various proposals for transitioning all or part of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band for flexible use, terrestrial mobile spectrum, and explores options for more efficient and intensive fixed use of the same band, all while protecting incumbent C-Band satellite earth stations from harmful interference.

The SBE comments constitute a counterproposal that offers a reasonable alternative to dividing the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, a reverse auction, or other action that would not protect incumbent C-band receive-only earth stations. The SBE suggests that, given the huge number of C-band registrations since the opening of the window (now reportedly greater than 16,000), the FCC’s initial premise that the C-Band could be shared with 5G as an overlay was simply wrong.

Recognizing that the European 5G proposal is 3.4-3.8 GHz, and since that offers 1 MHz of overlap with the U.S. proposal, the U.S, should adopt the European allocation, put the commercial broadband providers in the 3.4-3.7 GHz band and use the small overlap segment with C-band for local, private 5G networks critical for next-generation manufacturing and industrial applications. That is actually workable with C-band in the 100 MHz overlap segment. It leaves the vast majority of the spectrum, 3.8-4.2 GHz, intact with no 5G.

In contrast to other proposals, nothing is lost for current C-band users with the SBE plan. 5G moves into military radar spectrum, which was already designated years ago for broadband reallocation as part of the National Broadband Plan.

Read the SBE filing.

National EAS Test Rescheduled for Oct. 3

The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) previously announced that a National EAS test would be sent Sept. 20, 2018. Following the effects of the Hurricane Florence, the test has been moved to the backup date, Oct. 3, 2018.

The times for the test have not changed. At 2:18 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), FEMA will send a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) test message to all WEA-capable wireless devices throughout the entire United States and territories. Immediately following the WEA nationwide end-to-end test, at 2:20 p.m. EDT, FEMA will conduct a live test of the Emergency Alerting System (EAS). All EAS participants are required to participate in this nationwide test. The EAS message will be disseminated via the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

Stations are encouraged to verify that their EAS units are communicating correctly with the IPAWS server. Review station logs (which should be checked once each week by the chief operator) to ensure stations are receiving the Required Weekly Test (RWT) from IPAWS. This RWT is fed every Monday at 11:00 a.m. local time. Contact your equipment representative for details on setting up your EAS decoder to properly receive and relay the National test.

EAS participants are reminded that they are required to register with the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS). Form One was to be filed on or before Aug. 27, 2018. Then on or before 11:59 p.m. EDT, Oct. 3, 2018, EAS participants must file the day-of-test information sought by ETRS Form Two. Post-test data will be filed later with Form Three.

More information is availble from the FEMA website.

EAS National Test Reminder: Do Not Air Alert Tones as Examples

As you prepare your station for the EAS and Wireless Emergency Alert System (WEA) national test on Sept. 20, 2018, remember that the FCC forbids airing the audio attention signal or EAS tones for any reason other than a genuine alert, authorized test, or approved public service announcement. Remind your news and programming operations of this rule.

Any transmission, including broadcast, of the WEA or EAS attention signals or codes, or a simulation of them, under any circumstances other than a genuine alert, authorized test, or approved public service announcement violates the Commission’s rules and undermines the important public safety precautions that WEA and EAS provide. See 47 CFR §§ 10.520(d), 11.45.

While the FCC encourages improving public awareness of WEA and the EAS, including the upcoming nationwide test, broadcasters and cable providers are reminded to exercise caution and avoid inadvertently broadcasting the WEA or EAS tones in a news story.

Any question or concerns with the upcoming nationwide test can be directed to the FCC at alerting@fcc.gov.

Update FEMA Security Certificates by Sept. 24, 2018

By Larry Wilkins, CPBE
Chair, SBE EAS Advisory Group

As a reminder to all engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will update one of its security certificates on Sept. 24, 2018.

Security certificates allow EAS decoders to use the digital signature in the CAP message to verify that the message came from an authorized authority, and that it wasn’t changed between the originator and EAS participants’ equipment. These certificates expire periodically. FEMA currently uses a chain of five certificates for alert validation, one of which expires at 11:55 p.m. EDT on Sept. 24, 2018 (Sep 25 03:55:36 2018 UTC).

Monroe-Electronics and Sage Alerting Systems have both issued updates to their EAS units.

DASDEC users: A field service bulletin and CA file are available from the Digital Alert Systems website at digitalalertsystems.com/resources_fsb.html. All DASDEC and One-Net customers should download the field service bulletin for instructions, and install the new CA file.

Sage Endec users should visit sagealertingsystems.com for compete information on downloading and installing the file in their units.

Engineers are also reminded that FEMA has scheduled a national EAS test on Thursday, Sept. 20. It will be sent at 2:20 p.m. EDT. The test will be fed via IPAWS.

Be aware that preceding the EAS test to broadcasters, FEMA will send a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) test message to all WEA capable wireless devices throughout the entire United States and territories. That message will be sent at 2:18 p.m. EDT.

National EAS Test Scheduled for Sept. 20

By Larry Wilkins, CPBE, chair, SBE EAS Advisory Group

The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) has announced that a National EAS test will be sent on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. There is a difference between this test and the two previous tests. At 2:18 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), FEMA will send a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) test message to all WEA capable wireless devices throughout the entire United States and territories. Immediately following the WEA nationwide end-to-end test, at 2:20 p.m. EDT, FEMA will conduct a live test of the Emergency Alerting System (EAS). All EAS participants are required to participate in this nationwide test. The EAS message will be disseminated via the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

Stations are encouraged to verify that their EAS units are communicating correctly with the IPAWS server. Review your station logs (which should be checked once each week by the chief operator) to ensure you are receiving the Required Weekly Test (RWT) from IPAWS. This RWT is fed every Monday at 11:00 a.m. local time. Contact your equipment representative for details on setting up your EAS decoder to properly receive and relay the National test.

EAS participants are reminded that they are required to register with the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) and must complete the filing of ETRS Form One on or before Aug. 27, 2018. Then on or before 11:59 p.m. EDT, Sept. 20, 2018, EAS participants must file the day-of-test information sought by ETRS Form Two. On or before Nov. 5, 2018, EAS participants must file the detailed post-test data sought by ETRS Form Three.

Filers can access ETRS by visiting the ETRS page of the Commission’s website at www.fcc.gov/general/eas-test-reporting-system. Instructional videos regarding registration and completion of the ETRS Forms are available on the ETRS page.

FCC Extends C-Band Earth Station Filing Window

In a public notice, the International Bureau of the FCC announced a 90-day extension, to October 17, 2018, to the filing window for fixed-satellite service (FSS) earth stations currently operating in the 3.7-4.2 GHz frequency band as announced in public notice DA 18-398 on April 19, 2018. The earlier notice announced a temporary freeze on new or modification applications, and established a 90-day filing window for existing entities to voluntarily register or license their FSS earth-station facilities. The FCC also waived the coordination report requirement for the duration of the freeze. That filing windows was due to expire on July 18, 2018.

Since the beginning of the freeze, many parties have submitted to the record their concerns about the volume of unregistered earth stations and the difficulties that many of these operators have faced in preparing the information for filing. These parties indicate that without some relief many operators will be unable to satisfy the filing deadline and the Commission will be without accurate information for its deliberations in the Mid-band Proceeding. To address these concerns, the International Bureau now extends the 90-day filing date for an additional 90 days, until October 17, 2018, in order to provide operators with more time to file applications, should they choose to do so. Only earth stations constructed and operational as of April 19, 2018 are eligible for filing during this window.

The FCC also clarified that applications to register multiple FSS antennas operating in this band that are located at the same address or geographic location may be filed in the International Bureau Filing System (IBFS) by using a single registration form and paying a single fee (fee code CMO, currently $435). Finally, the FCC announced the availability of an additional option to facilitate the registration of large numbers of geographically diverse earth stations by filing an application for a single “network” license and paying a single fee in IBFS (fee code BGV, currently $10,620).

SBE President Jim Leifer, CPBE, and SBE General Counsel Chris Imlay visited representatives from the FCC International Bureau and the Office of Engineering and Technology on May 22 with specific requests to ease the registration burden to broadcasters. The SBE is pleased that the FCC implemented most of what the SBE requested.

The SBE’s requests were to extend the filing window, which it did, and to eliminate the filing fee. If the filing fee could not be waived, the SBE suggested a method of bulk filing for multiple stations or locations, which the FCC granted.

Read the FCC public notice

DA/FCC #: DA-18-639
Docket/RM: 17-183, 18-122

Info on registering Earth station sites

Register Your C-Band Receive-Only Earth Station Now

The Battle for the C-Band Heats Up

On April 19, 2018, the FCC issued a public notice of a temporary freeze on applications for new or modified fixed satellite service earth stations and fixed microwave stations operating in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band. This is the C-Band downlink. The notice also established, as a limited exception to the freeze, a 90-day window allowing existing entities that now own Fixed Satellite Service earth stations to register or license them if not currently licensed or registered. During this 90-day window, earth station users of this band can also modify currently licensed or registered earth stations.

The FCC explains plainly that the purpose of the freeze is to preserve the status quo in the C-Band pending FCC action in its open inquiry into “the possibility of permitting mobile broadband use and more intensive fixed use of the band” pursuant to Docket 18-122. This is known informally as the “mid-band proceeding” and it is a freight train. Congress, in the Mobile Now Act (Part of the 2018 Appropriations Act), called on the FCC to study the feasibility of federal and non-federal sharing of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band and to submit a report to the Secretary of Commerce and Congress within 18 months. In other legislation, the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services (Ray Baum’s Act), the NTIA and the FCC are required to submit reports evaluating the feasibility of allowing commercial wireless services to share use of specified frequencies between 3.1 and 4.2 GHz. If such sharing is feasible, the reports must identify which of the frequencies are most suitable: (1) for sharing with commercial wireless services through the assignment of new licenses by competitive bidding, (2) for sharing with unlicensed operations, or (3) for sharing through a combination of licensing and unlicensed operations. So there is a direct threat to the C-Band.

As noted in the public notice, there is a 90 day filing window for Receive-Only Earth Stations that have not been registered or licensed and current registrations and licenses can be modified. It is critical that you immediately see to the licensing or registration of your C-Band receive-only earth station within this window or risk losing the programming feeds. The window opened April 19 and it closes July 18, 2018. Don’t miss this opportunity.

Read the public notice
Info on registering Earth station sites

Preparing For the September 2017 National EAS Test

By Larry Wilkins, CPBE, chair, SBE EAS Advisory Group

All engineers should be aware by now that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has scheduled the 2017 national EAS test for Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 2:20 p.m. ET. This test will be originated and distributed via IPAWS only; the same manner as the 2016 National Test. The test will be sent with the event code NPT for National Periodic Test. All stations are expected to receive the NPT message from IPAWS or off-air and then to relay the NPT message on-air using their normal studio EAS equipment. The message will be sent with both English and Spanish language text and audio.

In preparation for the test a few items engineers need to check.
1. Verify each EAS unit has the correct time displayed. We have seen a number of units that are off by several minutes or on the wrong time zone. Equipment should be programmed to automatically synchronize to an internet time source. Even if it is set to a time server, check the clock for the correct time.

2. Verify you have a local incoming filter programmed to receive the NPT code, and it is set to automatic relay and not log only. The originator should be set to Primary Entry Point, and the event should be set to National Periodic Test (NPT).

3. Verify your station is receiving the IPAWS Required Weekly Test (RWT) on Mondays at 11:00 a.m. local time. This will assure your equipment is polling the IPAWS national server correctly.

4. If your station plans to rebroadcast the alert in Spanish, verify that the correct settings are programmed to access the Spanish version of the message. Since the procedure varies among equipment, contact the support number for your EAS unit.

5. Engineers should (if possible) be on site for the test on Sept. 27. This way you can verify firsthand the proper reception and relay as well the quality of the audio transmission.

Remember also that the FCC will require all stations to report the reception and relay of the NPT via the Commission’s EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS). The user name and password used for the 2016 test will not gain access to the ETRS for this test.

Filers can access the ETRS home page by visiting the ETRS page of the Commission’s website. Instructions for setting a new user name and password as well as filing the proper forms are available on the ETRS site.

All EAS participants must submit Form One on the FCC ETRS site no later than Aug. 28, 2017.

Multiple Streams on a Single Station
Analog and digital broadcast stations that operate as satellites or repeaters of a hub station (or common studio or control point if there is no hub station) and rebroadcast 100 percent of the programming of the hub station (or common studio or control point) may satisfy the requirements through the use of a single set of EAS equipment at the hub station (or common studio or control point) which complies with §11.32 and §11.33.

In other words, if you have one hub station feeding 100 percent of its programming to several other stations, submit a Form One only for the EAS unit at the hub station. If a station has its own programming, it should be filing at least one copy of Form One.

Concerning digital FM stations with auxiliary streams (HD-2 or HD-3) and television stations with auxiliary streams (.2 or .3) these EAS participants should only file for auxiliary streams if they have their own dedicated EAS units.

For example, if the main channel has one EAS unit and the HD-2 and/or HD-3 stream has a separate EAS unit, they should file a separate set of forms. If all three channels share a single unit, they should file one set of forms.