Alert Upgrade in Store

Next Year, Cable Operators
will have to upgrade their headends
to support the U.S. government’s new
emergency alerting system—but the industry
is hoping for an extension to the
current March 29, 2011, deadline.

The Federal Emergency Management
Agency was tasked with creating a nextgeneration
system to supersede the current
Emergency Alert System, which
distributes messages through those familiar
squawking tones.

FEMA’s Common Alerting Protocol, or
CAP, is an Internet-based open format designed
to let officials reach not just radio
and television but also mobile phones,
personal computers and other communications
devices as well.

CAP allows for up to 1,800 characters
in a text message, whereas EAS alerts are
limited to basic geographic and event information.
“CAP messaging will really
jazz up EAS if it’s used properly,” said Arthur
Leisey, director of EAS technology at
equipment vendor Trilithic.

EAS participants—up to 30,000 individual
cable systems, radio and TV stations and
satellite operators—want more time to get
the hardware and software ready, though.

Industry groups lobbied to extend the
CAP deadline until Sept. 30, 2011, in a joint
filing to the Federal Communications Commission
last month. At press time, the FCC
had not ruled on whether to extend the
deadline but many observers expect the
agency to move the shot clock back.

In any case, the two primary suppliers
of EAS equipment to the cable industry,
Trilithic and Monroe Electronics, both
claim they’re ready to help MSOs meet
the mandate.