UPDATE While the FCC tries to enhance the mobile emergency alerts through the Wireless Emergency Alert System (WEA) by adding more characters and “geo-targeting” as was reported in Friday’s Inside Towers, telecom industry groups are pushing back. CTIA, the primary trade group for wireless providers, would like to see a more measured strategy. The telecom trade group wants the FCC to consider the stress such a change would have on mobile providers’ platforms.
“Before considering use of embedded URLs across all WEA alert categories that provide access to additional content outside of the WEA service, a substantial effort among all stakeholders would be needed to develop and implement standards, agree on approaches to mitigate customer confusion and safeguard against adverse impacts to wireless networks,” said Brian Josef, the CTIA’s Assistant VP of Regulatory Affairs, in a filing to the FCC.
Josef added that if emergency operators were to aggressively use URLs, the system would “also increase data usage beyond the network traffic ‘spikes’ that already occur in the wake of these events and in response to these alerts.”
FCC’s proposal also would “create new classes of alerts for community public safety advisories, expand the current character count of WEA messages to 360 characters, eye strategies to improve system testing, and require mobile providers to boost their ability to target the messages,” Association Now reported.
While the WEA system may have played a role in Manhattan’s arrest of Ahmad Khan Rahami, NY Senator Chuck Schumer said that the alert did not come with a photo or other “multimedia elements.” Therefore, he said that the effectiveness was limited. Schumer told Association Now that the FCC isn’t moving fast enough on the upgrades.
“The bottom line is that in the era of Instagram, Facebook and SnapChat our Wireless Emergency Alert System needs to get as smart as our phones and be updated so it can deliver photos and other media that has information that can save lives,” Schumer said in a news release.
Inside Towers reported last week that more than 21,000 Wireless Emergency Alerts have been sent since their inception in 2012. According to FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief David Simpson, speaking at last week’s FCC’s open meeting, the Commission “envisioned the changes with 4G and LTE and beyond, with 5G, in mind.” The Commission, Simpson said, will “encourage carriers to implement geo-targeting WEA messages ‘as soon as practical.’”
For further documentation on the recent FCC requirements go to: Wireless Emergency Alerts; Amendments to Part 11 of the Commission’s Rules Regarding the Emergency Alert System