FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has been in Washington long enough to have first-hand experience with civic emergencies both natural and man-made. His comments at an FCC webinar/workshop on network reliability calling for a serious look at the placement of FM chips in cell phones to keep citizens connected when phone service is swamped to uselessness was music to radio broadcasters’ ears.
Copps said, “While it may be somewhat beyond the scope of today’s meeting, I’d raise just one example. I think the time is here for a thorough, calm and reasoned discussion about FM chips in handsets. We all acknowledge the need for redundancy in communications—especially emergency communications—and last week, during the earthquake, a lot of folks were only able to get information through radio broadcasts when the phone networks got congested. What are the pros and cons of an FM chip? To what extent have other countries had experience with this? There will be a lot of questions to answer, but with the stakes so high, we should be open to discussing any and all reasonable ideas. And we must understand the sense of urgency that this requires, given the passing of a decade between 9/11 and now. Public safety has waited too long. Citizens have waited too long.”
NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith was quick to applaud Copps’ remarks and to second them. “NAB welcomes Commissioner Copps’ timely call for a discussion on the merits of radio-enabled smartphones,” said Smith. “With the 9/11 anniversary looming, it’s notable that broadcasting remains the unchallenged leader in delivering emergency information to the masses faster and more reliably than any other communications platform. While cellphone signals jammed and power was down during Hurricane Irene and the recent East Coast earthquake, it was the robust ‘one-to-many’ transmission architecture of local broadcasting that kept listeners and viewers in touch and informed.”
Smith concluded, “Radio chips in cellphones require no additional spectrum and could be activated immediately in many devices. From a public safety perspective alone, it’s time to give citizens access to lifeline information provided by America’s hometown radio stations.”
RBR-TVBR observation: We can keep this one very simple: Somewhere, Jeff Smulyan is smiling…