The FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is seeking comment on petitions filed by Highway Information Systems, Inc. (HIS) and the American Association of Information Radio Operators (AAIRO) that address aspects of the agency's regulation of Travelers' Information Station (TIS) operations. TISs are radio stations licensed to federal, state and local government entities to transmit noncommercial voice information regarding traffic and road conditions; traffic hazards and travel advisories; directions; availability of lodging, rest stops and service stations; and descriptions of local points of interest. The FCC's TIS rules, which were adopted in 1977, prohibit these stations from identifying commercial establishments over the air, allowing them only to identify commercial travel carriers when necessary to facilitate announcements about departures, arrival or parking at air, train and bus terminals. Further, these stations' transmitter sites must be located near transportation terminals, public parks, historical sites, bridges, tunnels or highway intersections.
On July 16, 2008, HIS, a manufacturer of TIS systems, filed a Petition for Rulemaking urging the Commission to update the TIS rules to facilitate the use of these stations as a means for direct communication between government entities and the public. Noting the limitations of other public safety services such as the wireless Commercial Mobile Alert System, the HIS Petition stresses the importance of TIS stations as a universal means of communicating with the public through AM radio broadcasts. Accordingly, HIS asks the FCC to update the rules to (1) change the title of Section 90.242 of the Commission's rules from "Travelers' Information Stations" to "Local Government Radio Service," and make similar name changes in the body of the rule; (2) revise the "permissible use" section of the rule to afford editorial control over the noncommercial content of TIS broadcasts to the government licensee; and (3) eliminate the limitations on TIS transmitter site location. In particular, HIS urges the FCC to eliminate the enumerated list of "permissible uses" for TIS stations, emphasizing that the list is overly restrictive and no longer reflects all of the potential noncommercial uses for TIS stations by today's governments.
In addition, AAIRO filed a Petition for Ruling on September 9, 2008, seeking clarification of the current TIS rules. AAIRO observes that the agency has issued notices of violation to TIS licensees for transmitting certain content, such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather reports, deemed to be outside the permissible scope of TIS broadcasts. According to AAIRO, such enforcement actions "undermine" this public safety service and unnecessarily limit the role of TIS in providing information to the public. Therefore, AAIRO's Petition seeks a ruling that "any message concerning the safety of life or protection of property that may affect any traveler or any individual in transit or soon to be in transit" may be transmitted on TISs "at the sole discretion of officials authorized to operate such stations." Specifically, AAIRO seeks a ruling that weather reports and forecasts and emergency and safety information may be transmitted on TIS.
The FCC released a Public Notice seeking comment on these petitions on February 13, 2009.