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FCC Urged Not to Expand Emergency Alerts to Streaming Platforms At This Time

Michael King

The National Association of Broadcasters said Monday that federal requirements that exist for broadcasters should not be extended to streaming companies because they said, the technology needed — at least at the present time — is “extremely burdensome, and likely infeasible” to allow consumers to receive alerts through streaming devices.

The FCC has asked if OTT video providers should be required to provide the alerts as they prepare a report for Congress — which directed the federal agency to examine the feasibility of expanding the Emergency Alert System online.

The NAB said they want to have the report to indicate that it is not time to extend the system to OTT systems at this point.

According to the NAB, as cited in a NextTV article, web-based architecture does not usually handle the sort of localized infrastructure needed to monitor alerts based on geography or event type. Additionally, they said, the “limitless” nature of streaming makes it “virtually impossible” to geo-target the transmission of EAS alerts to relevant consumers.

Finally, the NAB said, about 31% of all internet users use a VPN, which enhances privacy by masking IP addresses as well as physical locations.

“Without accurate location information, streaming services have no way of discerning where the consumer is located,” the NAB said. “For example, a viewer in California could be streaming a Virginia-based TV station’s newscast, or streaming a Florida-based radio station while in O’Hare Airport.”

There are also policy issues at play. Video platforms like Netflix or Hulu and audio platforms like iHeartRadio or Spotify are generally unregulated by the FCC. On top of that, many streaming services are located outside of the United States, or are partially owned by foreign shareholders. Many streamers use hardware or servers that are not under their direct control.

Each of these factors would limit the capability for the EAS alerts to accurately reach individuals in an area where they are supposed to target.

The NAB has posted its entire statement to the FCC online.

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