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Copps: "It's Time To Discuss FM Chips in Cell Phones."

The recent rash of natural disasters highlighted two very important items. The first; Radio stations become the eyes and ears of a community. Through their terrestrial signals local broadcasters stay on the air for many hours giving updates, talking to emergency personnel and provide an outlet for listeners to search for loved ones, report on their own community or just vent. It's business as usual for broadcasters. The second; power goes out, people get stranded and the lines of communication get fuzzy, overloaded and, at times, fail.

Yesterday at a workshop addressing network reliability FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said something the NAB and Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan have been saying for a very long time. He said it's time to look into putting FM chips in cell phones. "We share a duty to think creatively about how we can arm consumers with additional ways to communicate during disasters. 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."

Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan who has been a big proponent of the FM Chip idea was very pleased. "For those of us who have studied this issue for so long, it is clear that in an emergency, radio is the ONLY way to alert the public. Cell systems go down, cable systems and power go out, and even when the cellular system stays up, an emergency guarantees the system will be jammed.  Radios in cell phones are ubiquitous all over the world, only in the United States have FM chips been blocked or deactivated. Today, many, if not almost all smart phones sold in the US have FM chips that have been turned OFF by the carriers. It's time to turn those chips on!"

It was also music to the ears of the NAB. "NAB welcomes Commissioner Copps's timely call for a discussion on the merits of radio-enabled smartphones. 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. 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."




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- NRBSXOdvSUkgximyG
(7/13/2012 7:21:06 PM)
Our home recently suffered power outage and all of a sudden we were completely detached from the rest of the world. FM chips on my mobile phone would have been helpful as I was in the dark. More choice the better for the listeners/consumers.

- David
(12/3/2011 3:33:48 PM)
I would love the FM Chip. Local and world news updates are available upon the hour, every hour on public radio. It's more effecient than streaming online all the time. If only there were one little button on the outer shell of the phone that would connect me immediately to the local radio station. The less streaming and/or buttons I have to do, the better. Cell phone + one button + radio = rational and ideal.

- Amanda
(9/9/2011 6:54:18 PM)
Having been through more disasters than I can count the FM radio has been the first place I go for more info. Yes apps are good for some things however they don't reach everyone. September ll disaster was the hardest to get info on because NYC lost most of their broadcast towers so they lost the terrestrial coverage. As well as putting FM on cell phones, FCC needs to mandate that ALL FM and AM stations have at least 2 people at broadcast facilities at all times to pre-emt broadcasts.

- Gordon Wilson
(9/9/2011 3:37:44 PM)
I have FM on my MP3 player, never use it. Not one of the FM stations in my area even break programming for weather incidents. What would really be good? Put an NWS All Hazards radio chip into the phone. Then you are guaranteed the information you need for personal safety!

- Richard P

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