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Multilingual EAS, Robocall Items

FCC Unanimously Approves Feb. Agenda

The FCC unanimously approved its entire open meeting agenda Thursday, including an order making it easier for consumers to revoke consent for being robocalled, an order revising wireless mic rules (see 2402150037), an NPRM on a licensing framework for in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing missions, and an NPRM seeking comment on using prerecorded script templates aimed at facilitating multilingual emergency alerts. “In the United States, over 26 million people have limited or no ability to speak English,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel at the open meeting. “That means we have to get creative and identify new ways to reach everyone in a disaster.”

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The multilingual alerting NPRM seeks comment on using prescripted templates stored on emergency alerting equipment that offer emergency alerts in the 13 most commonly used non-English languages spoken in the U.S. (see 2402130059). Under proposals in the NPRM, the FCC would create the templates, and broadcasters and MVPDs would provide emergency alerts in the primary language of the channel's content. If an EAS participant offers multiple channels, the alerts on each channel would need to correspond to the language of that channel. The proposal is based on a similar template-based system the FCC enacted for wireless emergency alerts, Rosenworcel said. “I know if we get creative we can update radio and television alerts just like we are doing with wireless emergency alerts. I am convinced that if we do this right we can save more lives,” she said. “Imagine not being able to understand the language in which the emergency information is being transmitted,” Commissioner Anna Gomez added. The item also seeks comment on templates for alert messages in American Sign Language.

Commissioner Brendan Carr spoke in support of seeking comment on the proposals Thursday but said he has concerns about the eventual rule change. “We need to be mindful once we go forward that we don't go too far in terms of requiring translation within the system itself,” said Carr, adding that could either be cumbersome, introduce technical complexity, or slow the delivery of emergency alerts. Carr said he would be “a little leery of a mandate” requiring that EAS equipment translate emergency messages.

Public Safety Bureau Chief Debra Jordan said in a news conference Thursday that the draft item was updated to include one of the questions NCTA raised in a recent ex parte filing. “Cable operators’ EAS and video architecture cannot currently support delivery of a variety of non-English language template alerts corresponding to the language of the program channel” said the filing. It urged the FCC to include questions about how cable operators with multiple channels would implement the template plan.

We applaud the @FCC for moving to protect consumers while being sensitive to the burden on broadcasters,” said a Public Knowledge post on X Thursday. “This move comes at a time in which extreme weather become increasingly common, making accessibility in alerts all the more essential,” said a second post.

NAB didn’t comment nor did the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, which has long pushed for the FCC to tackle multilingual alerts and unsuccessfully took the matter before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2017. In 2022, FCC officials said the agency was considering MMTC’s proposal for multilingual alerting: a “designated hitter” system where non-English broadcasters would step in during emergencies to provide alerts for English language broadcasters (see [2203100067]). “I understand that this will be difficult. It may require substantial updates to participants’ existing systems, but today we make a start,” said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks Thursday.


The FCC also approved 5-0 an order and Further NPRM that codifies some robocall and robotexting rules while asking about applying protections in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to communications from wireless carriers to their own subscribers.

The robocall item had been controversial. FCC officials said that, as expected (see 2402130047), commissioners made tweaks to the draft item but no substantial changes.

Every week, we are looking for new ways to quash junk robocalls and robotexts,” Rosenworcel said: “They are awful, they are annoying, and they are eroding trust in our communications networks.” That's why the commission is updating its rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act “to make clear consumers have the right to choose what calls and texts they receive,” she said. "Those who send this nonsense need to honor your request,” Rosenworcel said.

Through safety-related alerts about natural disasters or service disruptions, warnings of suspected fraud, and notices about roaming, data overages, or benefit programs, messages from wireless providers help protect consumers, while keeping them connected and fully informed,” a CTIA spokesperson said in an email, responding to the focus on carrier communications with customers. “The FCC has long recognized the importance to wireless consumers of receiving these updates, and its existing policy should remain in place as it has proven effective in delivering these consumer benefits," the spokesperson said.


The ISAM NPRM proposes creating an ISAM-specific licensing in the FCC's Part 25 rules for licensing commercial satellites. In addition, it gives ISAM missions the option of seeking Part 5 experimental licenses for missions not providing commercial service. Its 5-0 approval was expected (see 2402090006).

Carr said he had clarifying edits made to the item, which now strikes the right balance regarding the agency’s “limited jurisdiction” in space outside its radio frequency expertise. The Space Bureau said there were no substantive changes from the draft.

Multiple commissioners in approving the item touted ISAM capabilities. “This is where the future of space is going” and FCC rules must keep pace, Starks said. Gomez said it’s difficult to establish a framework for a nascent framework, but the FCC “is always up for the challenge” and trying to provide regulatory certainty while allowing innovation.