CTIA, T-Mobile Urge FCC to Keep WEA ‘Blue Alert’ Simple

CTIA-the Wireless Association and T-Mobile have weighed in on the FCC’s proposal to add a Blue Alert code to Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and the broadcast Emergency Alert System (EAS). Blue Alerts, meant to signal a police officer is in danger, can be transmitted to cell phones and wireless devices, broadcast stations, overhead highway message signs, and other secondary alerting mechanisms – in the same way Amber Alerts are issued.

The FCC proposes calling the new event code “BLU” and classifying it as either an Imminent Threat Alert or a Public Safety Message, depending on the circumstances. CTIA and T-Mobile tell the agency in filed comments, Blue Alerts could be incorporated into the existing WEA as an imminent threat without any new standards or system modifications. “This approach would allow the integration of a dedicated ‘BLU’ code within an existing alert class, without the delay that would result from new testing requirements and network/handset modifications,” says CTIA. “Notably, integration as an Imminent Threat alert would allow a seamless delivery of Blue Alerts to all WEA-capable mobile devices, including legacy devices.” 

The FCC could also consider incorporating Blue Alerts into the new Public Safety message classification, however these new alerts are not required until early 2019. More testing would be required and legacy mobile devices may not be capable of accepting the new alert class, cautions CTIA.

However, if the FCC gives Blue Alerts a new WEA classification, new standards would need to be created, “along with corresponding network and device changes,” which would take a long time, cautions T-Mobile. The carrier also suggests the new alert use existing handset behavior qualities, rather than requiring new, special functions such as unique audio notifications or special cadence, to speed deployment.

CTIA suggests the addition be voluntary, noting the concerns of the Boulder Regional Emergency Telephone Service Authority about “recipients ‘tuning out’ alerts and even unregistering” for them or disabling their devices from receiving alerts at all, if they get too many.

September 5, 2017

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