Congress pressing FCC on FM in cell phones


FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has been busy lately signing letters to Members of Congress who have written to him and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urging them to require inclusion of FM tuners in cell phones so that they are capable of receiving Emergency Alert System (EAS) notifications.

The FCC late Friday released 61 letters that Genachowski had sent in reply to those Members of Congress. The Chairman carefully avoided taking any position on the issue, but noted that the FCC in December initiated a 28-month period during which the mobile phone companies must develop a commercial Mobile Service Alert System (CMAS). He noted that the FCC’s standards for CMAS do “not require or prohibit the use of Alert-FM” or similar FM radio-based technologies for the cell companies’ emergency alerting system.

RBR-TVBR observation: Certainly broadcasters have a commercial motive in seeking to have FM receivers in cell phones, as well as the public interest benefits. The bottom line, though, is that piggybacking on EAS is going to be billions cheaper than any alerting system the cell companies would develop themselves. Also, FM radio still works when cell phone systems are knocked out by natural or manmade disasters.