FCC Report Notes Internet Failures in Emergency Alert Test

Internet issues accounted for 6.1% of emergency alert receiver complications

FCC Report Notes Internet Failures in Emergency Alert Test
Photo by Daria Nepriakhina / with permission

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2024 – A nationwide Emergency Alert Test last fall by the Federal Communications Commission found that a small percentage of alert system failures were the result of various problems attributable to Internet Service Providers and other internet network issues.

The report, released in June by the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, documented the Emergency Alert System’s ability to send public safety alerts to as many people within the U.S. as possible.

The EAS delivers warnings to the public thorough radio and television. Wireless Emergency Alerts deliver warnings to consumers’ wireless phones. The Federal Emergency Management Agency by law is responsible for any national-level activation, tests, and exercises of the EAS.

Based on 18,334 participants, the test found that out of 1,064 who reported "complications on receipt," 65 were attributed to "internet issues." Likewise, out of 1,711 that reported retransmission complications, 39 were attributed to internet issues. Internet issues caused 6.1% and 2.3% of total complications, respectively, in the two categories mentioned in the report.

Participants in the Oct. 4 EAS test specifically cited internet service provider downages, internet service downages, internet connection issues and internet firewall problems as reasons for complications. 

Additionally, the report found that two of the 72 National Public Warning System broadcast stations involved in the post-test assessment had experienced technical issues when receiving and retransmitting alerts. These failures occurred because of internet issues. One station experienced an outage from its internet service provider, while the other reported "very slow" internet speeds.

On Monday, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed rules intended to strengthen the emergency alert system against cyber threats.

The rules would require EAS providers to report equipment defects within 24 hours of discovery to help the agency “identify persistent technical problems in this equipment,” the FCC said in a press release. The rules would also mandate participants to have contingency plans in place to deliver alerts to the public in case of failure.

The proposal would also mandate providers to update their cybersecurity risk management plans.

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