NAB Touts Broadcasting's Emergency Capabilities In 911 Reliability Docket Comments
August 21, 2012 at 4:48 AM (PT)
The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BROADCASTERS took the opportunity presented by the JUNE 29th derecho storm that affected parts of the U.S. to let the FCC know of broadcasters' role as "first informers" and the need to get radios into cell phones.
In comments to the docket on the reliability of 911 services in the wake of the derecho, the NAB said, "Television and radio broadcasters are an essential part of our nation’s emergency communications response system, through our role as the backbone of the Emergency Alert System and the provider of timely, comprehensive information during times of emergency ... Keeping the public informed during emergencies is the hallmark of broadcasters’ public service. For almost a century, broadcasters have served as America’s 'first informers' during disasters and emergencies, delivering a powerful, unique combination of EAS warnings and detailed, ongoing, local information concerning storm paths, shelter directions, evacuation routes, and other potentially life-saving information. During an emergency -- particularly one that arises with little notice -- no other outlets can match the ability of broadcasting to deliver timely warnings and updated information."
The comments also touted broadcasting's ability to remain on the air while other services fail in emergencies, and claimed that "local broadcast stations have personnel and facilities that allow them to both create and distribute content. Local television and radio stations employ many locally-based on-air staff and reporters with experience in providing up-to-the-minute information on emergencies and disasters. Many local broadcasters also employ sophisticated weather tracking systems that can provide detailed information on severe weather.For these reasons, local broadcasters can provide their communities with emergency services that no other communications outlets can match."
And the NAB used the situation to once again lobby the Commission for FM chips in mobile phones, saying that "it is time to seriously consider steps needed to improve consumer access to free, over-the-air radio via smartphones and other mobile devices ... While the wireless industry may contend there is no consumer demand to activate these chips, some observers believe that the wireless industry has competitive incentives to retain tight control over handset features, to the ultimate detriment of consumers. Specifically, wireless providers may be reluctant for competitive reasons to provide consumers with a free audio alternative to fee-based radio streaming apps that can rapidly exhaust one’s monthly data usage plan."
The NAB also complained that the wireless industry does not inform consumers which handsets include radio receivers. "Given the Commission’s interest in promoting competition, consumer access to information, and public safety, the Commission should consider ways to encourage the wireless industry to provide improved online and retail information so as to allow consumers to identify mobile devices that include free, over-the-air radio. Broadcasters believe that, with more transparent consumer information, market demand for radio- enabled mobile devices will increase, and in turn, the availability of such devices will improve. To be clear, NAB is not seeking any kind of federal mandate that wireless operators incorporate and activate radios chips in mobile devices."
For its part, CTIA - THE WIRELESS ASSOCIATION called the derecho "an extraordinary event" and touted its own industry's efforts to maintain service in emergencies, including the use of portable and temporary base stations.