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Emergency Alert Systems for IPTV, CATV and Campus COMMON ALERT PROTOCOL (CAP)

Frequently Asked Questions: Cable TV and Next Generation CAP EAS

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Q: What has changed in Federal Communications Commission EAS rules, and how will that affect Cable Television Operations?

A: On July 12, 2007, the FCC released an EAS Second Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 07-109) which revises the FCC Part 11 EAS Rules.  Key parts of these rule changes will come into effect during the 4th Quarter of 2010 when FEMA makes an announcement of its adoption of the Common Alerting Protocol.

Of particular interest to Cable Television operators:

  • Cable TV systems – as well as all other EAS Participants - must be able to accept Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) v1.2 messages, no later than 180 days after FEMA publishes adoption of this standard.  That FEMA action is expected during the week of 27 September 2010.
  • Cable TV systems must adopt Next Generation EAS delivery systems no later than 180 days after FEMA publicly releases standards for these systems.  These standards would be shared by the IPAWS system (for national or Presidential alert messaging) as well as state and local emergency alert systems.
  • Cable TV systems must be ready to transmit state-level and geo-targeted local EAS alerts received in CAP format and issued by state governors or their designees no later than 180 days after FEMA publishes its adoption of the CAP standard, provided that the state has an FCC-approved EAS State Plan that provides for delivery of such alerts.
  • Cable TV systems must configure their systems to incorporate CAP security functions within 180 days after FEMA publishes standards for authentication and validation of CAP alerts.
  • Wireline Video Providers (AT&T U-Verse and Verizon FiOS) have now been included as EAS participants.
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Q: What kind of equipment is needed at a Cable TV facility to meet this new FCC and FEMA mandate?

A: Simply put, what is needed is a CAP-EAS encoder-decoder – an enhanced version of the traditional EAS encoder-decoder mandated at all cable, TV and radio sites.  A CAP EAS encoder-decoder - like the Monroe R189 One-Net - is an FCC-certified device with CAP capability built in.  The One-Net provides an all-in-one solution for a cable system that might need both a new encoder-decoder and a CAP receiver. 

At the same time, the FCC has advised that the existing EAS system will continue operations.  The National Weather Service, for example, will continue broadcasting current EAS format messages for the foreseeable future.  The Monroe One-Net fully supports the existing EAS, integrates CAP, and provides the option of three on-board radio receivers (AM-FM-WXR).

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Q: Could an add-on unit or external software meet the new FCC requirements for CAP monitoring?

A: Given the requirements for supporting a mandatory governor’s EAS alert, and other function requirements of CAP EAS, the answer is that an external unit, adaptor or software will likely not be sufficient.  Cable operators should be cautious when evaluating these kinds of options, as they are not FCC-certified, and may not support the functional requirements of the new CAP EAS environment.

In many cases, the Monroe R189 One-Net can be as cost effective as adding a separate CAP receiver.  The One-Net also provides the ability to put satellite/wireless data receiver cards into the unit, providing additional economies where those interfaces are required.

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Q:When do Cable systems need to implement equipment for receiving CAP alerts from the Federal government?  What exactly does the 180 day clock mean?

A:For the reception of CAP alerts from FEMA, Cable systems must implement new or upgraded equipment within 180 days of FEMA announcing the adoption of CAP – unless the FCC amends that rulemaking.
 
It is expected that FEMA will make a public announcement that they are officially adopting the CAP V 1.2 and the EAS-to-CAP and IPAWS profiles.  We understand that there will be no mention of the “180-day clock" in the Press Release, as FEMA does not start nor control that. However, unless the FCC amends or clarifies their rulemaking, then a FEMA announcement at the end of September 2010 would mean that all Cable systems must have this equipment implemented by the end of March 2011.
There is a strong possibility that the FCC will re-evaluate the start of the clock, extend the duration of this clock, or both.  Many in industry and government see the 180 day clock as problematic, for a variety of reasons (funding issues, internal certification timelines for new equipment, government purchasing cycles, the need for updated state plans first, among a host of reasons that have been raised).
There is also a question of what specific action will start the clock for Cable TV operators.  Also a question of what and whether the FCC needs to do to translate this FEMA announcement into required action by EAS participants.

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Q: What exactly do Cable TV systems need to implement?

A: Essentially, Cable TV systems will need to acquire an upgrade of existing EAS encoder-decoders, or replace existing EAS encoder-decoders with new CAP-enabled units.   First, there are several data and system requirements being established by FEMA, the Federal agency charged with conducting national level EAS, and the administrator of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System.

Second, there are differing system requirements in many of the States that have deployed their own CAP systems for state and local EAS messaging.  Cable TV systems are advised to implement CAP EAS equipment that is capable of handling both tasks.

Cable TV systems with a Monroe R189 One-Net encoder-decoder benefit from the ability of that unit to be easily software upgraded to the following new FEMA requirements:

  • The CAP v1.2 XML data format
  • The FEMA IPAWS v1.0 CAP profile
  • The IPAWS OPEN 2.0 interface specification to the IPAWS alert system
  • The EAS-CAP Industry Group Implementation specifications

The Monroe R189 One-Net EAS is the only unit in service in the cable industry that can meet these various FEMA IPAWS system requirements via a software update.  Other manufacturers have acknowledged their products will require either replacement or enhancement with additional equipment

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Q: What happens if FEMA mandates additional changes to IPAWS data or interface standards?

A: Monroe Electronics is already aware that FEMA is already contemplating an IPAWS 3.0 interface specification, as well as a change to the CAP v2.0 data format.  Cable TV operators need to be sure the systems in which they invest today will be able to accommodate those changes, as well as expected future iterations of data and interface standards.  The Monroe One-Net has been designed to accommodate all foreseen change in data or interface specifications that FEMA is contemplating.

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Q: When do states need to implement CAP origination for EAS?  What does this mean for Cable TV systems?

A: The Second Report and Order indicates that state CAP EAS should begin no earlier than 180 days from FEMA adoption of CAP.  In practice, therefore, SECCs and emergency managers need to take initial actions early, and likely within that 180 day period.  These initial actions would at a minimum include defining, developing and procuring CAP origination and relay systems and updating state EAS plans.
Over 20 states have deployed – or are in the process of deploying – advanced EAS relay systems that can accommodate CAP.  Many other states are expected to do so over the next year.

For Cable TV systems, as with all other EAS Participants, this means that they will need CAP EAS equipment that will be able to interface with state and local CAP alerting systems, in addition to the Federal IPAWS alerting system.  Fortunately, the Monroe One-Net is capable of interfacing with virtually all providers of CAP EAS relay services in these 20 states, as well as all others implementing CAP EAS systems.  The same One-Net unit you need to interface with FEMA IPAWS can be used to interface with state and local CAP EAS systems, in many cases with no additional modifications required.

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Q: What are the next steps for originating CAP alerts at the state/local level?

A: Depending on a state or local EAS plan, this means enabling state, local and/or tribal officials to originate CAP EAS messages.  Origination of CAP messages can be accomplished by putting a CAP messaging server in place at an authorized government site, or making use of a hosted service.

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Q: What does the new mandatory (‘must carry’) governor’s message mean for EAS operations at Cable TV systems?

A: States will have new roles and responsibilities with next generation CAP EAS.  One key change is the introduction of a mandatory (or “must carry”) alert message from a governor.  Once this capability is introduced into an state’s approved EAS plan, Cable TV systems must ensure their ability to accept such a message and put it to air.  The technical requirements for this new mandatory gubernatorial message will necessitate an integrated CAP-EAS encoder decoder, such as the Monroe One-Net.  External add-ons to legacy encoder-decoders will likely not be sufficient to forward the new mandatory gubernatorial message.

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Q: How can CAP alerts be relayed from state/local sources to Cable TV operations?  What are the transmission options?

A: Basically, this means having a data architecture in place to relay CAP messages from the source out to the LP-1s and/or to any number of Cable TV sites directly.  Typical transmission options include secure Internet (SSL and/or VPN), satellite (Ku- and C-band), and terrestrial wireless data distribution.  The Monroe One-Net readily integrates with internet via our on-board Ethernet card, and with satellite and terrestrial wireless data services via a modestly priced internal or external receiver.

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Q:What are the CAP EAS reception options for state and local CAP networks? 

A:Cable TV operators need to be aware that Federal, state and local CAP EAS system design choices may determine what brands of CAP-EAS device will “plug and play” with a given network.  Some CAP-EAS devices are Internet-only (and do not natively support or would require investment in additional equipment to support a satellite or wireless data network).  Some CAP networks will provide higher levels of security, and will require devices attached to that network to conform to certain security standards.  The One-Net has been designed with the necessary flexibility to conform to a wide range of network and data requirements.

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Q: What is the role of IPAWS?

A: The primary emphasis of FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), is the issuance of national (EAN) alerts from IPAWS to connected outbound systems, as was explained to Monroe Electronics and other industry participants a few weeks ago by a FEMA executive.   FEMA would relay national EAS messaging to the new Cellular Mobile Alert System, as well as to EAS.

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Q: What is the relationship between IPAWS and state/local CAP EAS systems?

A: The deployment of IPAWS does not necessarily give state and local authorities a "free ride."  To the contrary, there will be a need for deployment of state and local CAP systems.  There will need to be interconnections between FEMA IPAWS and state CAP systems at a server-to-server level (via IPAWS OPEN, formerly DM OPEN).
Over 18 states already have some form of IP-based EAS relay capability.  It appears the majority of those are CAP, or ready to be converted to CAP.  Two to three more are building or leveraging state IP networks for this purpose (meaning they'll just need to procure or build a CAP server).  Bottom line, almost half the states are positioning themselves for CAP origination and dissemination at a state and/or local level.

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Q: What does IPAWS Conformance Assessment mean?

A: IPAWS has asked industry to submit their products for a program that principally assesses whether a product conforms to the CAP v1.2 data format and particularly the IPAWS CAP Profile v1.0. IPAWS conformance testing will determine whether a device can understand messages coming from the Federal IPAWS.  But it will not determine whether a device can plug into a given state or local CAP EAS network.  The Monroe One-Net is expected to successfully complete its IPAWS Conformance Assessment during October 2010.

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Q: Is the FCC providing any certification or re-certification of CAP-EAS equipment.

A: That is uncertain at this time.  In any event, Monroe’s One-Net is currently FCC certified, and we will support re-certification if required.

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Q: What considerations should Cable TV operators have in mind when evaluating CAP EAS equipment?

A: You will need an encoder-decoder that is both FCC certified for Part 11, and FEMA IPAWS conformant.  This device will also need to work work with the delivery system your area/state is using.  These CAP-EAS devices will not stand alone, since there will of course be a range of interface questions.  In addition to CAP, you will need to determine if the device supports your specific operational requirements.  The Monroe One-Net has a long history of supporting the requirements of major cable TV systems across the nation.  The One-Net is CAP-ready, and has been designed to readily accommodate the data and physical interface requirements of Federal, State and local CAP EAS systems.

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Q: What do SECC’s need to factor into revised state EAS plans for CAP?

A: There’s a tremendous amount to consider here.  CAP EAS action steps by SECCs will need to encompass a holistic, systems-level approach, factoring in a fairly wide range of technical, regulatory and operational issues.   But, the task is manageable by trying to keep the parameters as simple as possible.  Monroe Electronics is actively providing SECCs and emergency managers with advisory support to assist them in this transition to a next-generation CAP EAS system.

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