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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Wheeler: No To FM Chip Activation Mandate


It was another day and another subcommittee for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, this time in front of the House Communications Subcommittee oversight hearing, Thursday. Representative Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) questioned Wheeler, looking for his support on activation and installation of FM chips in cellphones. Clarke expanded her remarks saying that she wanted her constituents to be able to receive emergency broadcast information. Wheeler responded by stating he didn't think it was the FCC's place to mandate that cell carriers activate the chips.

Wheeler continued by responding that he was aware that broadcasters have been airing ads requesting consumers to rally the FCC and Congress for chips and chip activation. Wheeler suggested that he believed the best approach was to let consumers choose for themselves. The NAB has argued that unless the cellphones are chipped and activated, cell users don't have the ability to make a choice.

The NAB's Dennis Wharton responded in a statement Thursday saying, "NAB and broadcasters are NOT seeking a government mandate; we merely seek the FCC's help in using its influence in enabling a technology that can save lives in emergency situations." The statement from Wharton references FEMA head Craig Fugate, who strongly backs the idea of activated FM chips in cellphones.

Fugate discusses the value of FM chips in smartphones in a YouTube video from October of last year. From the video: "And so you now start seeing technology moving in the smart phones where you can have radio chips in there. This would be again another way to ensure, when all else fails, you can still get the broadcaster's information. Because government is going to turn to the broadcaster and we're going to pump information, either through the Emergency Alert System or through just broadcasters getting out press conferences. And again, we always tell you, all disasters are local and the most information is going to come from your local broadcasters who are plugged into local officials telling you what's going on on the ground." The full video is below.

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