The New FCC CAP Rules and Your Budget
The clock is ticking.
No matter which EAS machine you have in service, there will be a cost before the end of this year. To prevent both the costs from taking you by surprise, as well as the potential for delivery delays due to the worldwide chip shortage, you would do well to plan for it now.
By the way, we are not talking about the current NPRM, which is receiving a lot of negative responses from the field, due to its pressures for adding and using enhanced security to protect from false alerts or cyber attacks that might interfere with legitimate alerts. As this is being written, that NPRM still is in the Reply Comment stage.
Particularly, owners of very early DASDEC or One-Net units – and here we are talking more than 10 or 12 years – need to be aware and (no pun intended) alert. Gorman-Redlich users may also find some options inconvenient and/or expensive.
Unfortunately, the FCC, for its part, really has put the crunch on companies, especially those whose budget is already done or strained. It would not have been that difficult for the FCC to give a little room for any companies who need to get into the 2024 budget year enough time to do so – perhaps six months leeway. Ramming this down as an unfunded mandate leads to people asking “Why do it have to happen right now?”
COMING THIS DECEMBER
By December 12, 2023, all stations are required to operate according to the adopted changes in PS Docket 15-94.
Primarily, for radio, this involves three major areas, and a couple of minor ones.
- Optional triggered EAS/CAP checking and preference to use the CAP version (with exceptions for EAN, NPT and RWT)
- Revised text for alert names:
- EAN now means “National Emergency Message”
- PEP now means “United States Government”
- NPT now means “Nationwide Test of the Emergency Alert System”
- Multilingual alerts will be made easier to use.
Additionally, alerts on TV will be better formatted for the deaf and /or blind.
The FCC would also standardize a hardcoded script for national tests.
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM
Now, here is where things get a bit complicated.
All the manufacturers of EAS equipment are working on software upgrades to implement the new requirements. For most users this will entail an upgrade charge. For some, a significant charge.
Why is this? Some software must be completely re-written, due to limitations in current hardware. Just as Windows 7 has reached its end of life, so too has a lot of software, especially that compiled for systems using 32-bit chips, which are getting hard/impossible to find in any quantity. In fact, many of the latest security patches are simply not available in 32-bit flavors. You know this yourself if you have bought a new computer in the past couple of years – you likely have at least one or more apps that will no longer run on 64-bit systems. (It is not all backwards-compatible!)
Meanwhile, as the manufacturers wrestle with this reality, the FCC decided to make some changes to what was expected and understood by manufacturers – colliding with the existing upgrade path. For example, the Versions 4.2 and 4.4 that DASDEC owners have installed over the past five years already will optionally do CAP triggered polling, but the FCC is now requiring mandatory CAP prioritization, along with the other changes, including the time period for the CAP check.
In reality, these changes do not need to be made “right now.” But, in forcing everyone to be adding the non-critical mandates and running a 64-bit system, the FCC has created an unnecessary time crunch for older DASDEC/One-Net owners with units that are running on 32-bit systems as well as Gorman-Redlich owners using old EEPROMs.
WHAT WILL IT COST?
Predicting exact costs – and delivery dates – is still in flux, as the manufacturers work on the updates.
Sage and Gorman-Redlich users, for example, can expect an upgrade fee in the $400-500 range, with Gorman-Redlich users also needing a new EEPROM for the upgrade. The majority of DASDEC and One-Net users have a similar set of options in front of them.
Of course, if you have an early DASDEC/One-Net (as we said, more than 10 to 12 years old) and you have a cup of coffee in your hand, put it down now. Ready? The costs for DASDEC/One-Net owners can range from about $2,200 to $5,500.
But, let us be sure you have the right information to make the decision.
WHICH WAY TO GO?
There are four basic configurations of DASDEC/One-Net models. Two use 32-bit processors, two use 64-bit systems.
There is a simple way to know where you stand. The Application Note, here, will show you exactly what version you have on hand.
If you have the 64-bit system, you can relax: either pay the upgrade fee when V5.1 is released, or join the Software Assurance Program that Digital Alert Systems has put in place – $200 per year – to prevent “surprise” upgrade costs. (We understand there will be a 5.2 and a 5.3 this year.)
If you have a 32-bit system, you will have to purchase a new unit, capable of operating the 64-bit software. Costs can range from $2,300 for an LPFM model to $5,500 for a TV model. This is where you want to budget and plan now! Each of the manufacturers owes it to you to explain upgrade cost and procedure as rapidly as possible. Last minute upgrade programs will hurt everyone.
We invited Bill Robertson of Digital Alert Systems to discuss this with us, and you can see the conversation here.
Yes, now. As noted above, we are in a time of limited chip availability.
Even the EEPROMs that the Gorman-Redlich models use are not easy to find – or should we say: not easy to find at typical pricing.
Clearly, as the end of 2023 approaches, delivery times will be a problem. So, do plan now.
ANY OTHER OPTIONS?
In any industry, there is a cost of doing business. Failure to maintain or periodically replace gear is kicking the can down the road and hoping nothing goes wrong.
Broadcasters buy new transmitters, new consoles, etc. Replacing an aging EAS machine might well be on the list. Perhaps your company does this, or was thinking of doing this. Others hate EAS and dread thinking about their EAS system. Yet, maybe it belongs in the same category of replacement.
Experience tends to suggest the FCC is not renowned for changing its mind on Report & Orders.
On the other hand, it is always possible that if the NAB and members of Congress were to press the FCC, a small delay in implementation might emerge.
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For more information on UVCeed and its scientific backing, please check out their website.
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