Sponsored By

'Absolutely zero reason' for wireless emergency alerts, says Florida's CFO'Absolutely zero reason' for wireless emergency alerts, says Florida's CFO

'Frankly, I don't like the idea of any Administration (regardless of party) having the ability to DM Americans without their permission,' Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis wrote to the FCC. He's urging the agency to halt the use of wireless emergency alerts.

Mike Dano

November 1, 2023

3 Min Read
friends phones pool
(Source: Westend61 GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo)

The CFO of the state of Florida is asking the FCC to "immediately halt any further utilization" of the federal government's wireless emergency alert service.

"Frankly, I don't like the idea of any Administration (regardless of party) having the ability to DM Americans without their permission," Jimmy Patronis wrote in a letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel this week. "Trust in our nation's ruling class is at an all-time low and for good reason. In a time when the first and second branches of government should be reining in Big Tech and protecting the privacy of American citizens, Big Tech and Big Government seem to be indistinguishable."

He continued: "In my opinion, there is absolutely zero reason that the federal government needs to notify millions of Americans at the exact same moment."

Instead, Patronis argued that it should be up to each US state's emergency management director to send out such alerts "without the federal government needlessly getting in the way."

Patronis' letter comes a few weeks after the FCC tested the system "to ensure that the systems continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level."

Patronis previously served in the Florida House of Representatives and on the Florida Public Service Commission before becoming the state's CFO in 2017.

Related:T-Mobile, Dish, AT&T, others report hiccups with emergency alert test

The new Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system traces its origins to the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) that was developed in the 1960s during the Cold War. In 1997, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) was designed for the President to speak to the American people in a national emergency. The system has been updated a number of times, including in 2006 when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) developed a new digital standard for distributing alert messages to cable, satellite and TV broadcasters called the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). The latest test of the system included the new WEA component that targets Americans' mobile phones.

Wireless network operators including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Dish Network and others reported mostly positive emergency alert test results, but some cited some hiccups such as fiber cuts that delayed alert delivery and issues with some Android devices receiving alerts.

After the test, the FCC said it is taking steps to further improve the wireless portion of the system. Specifically, the agency said it will require wireless providers to support messages not only in English, but also the 13 most commonly spoken languages and American Sign Language. The agency also said it would require wireless operators to include maps in WEA messages that show the alert recipient's location relative to the geographic area where the emergency is happening.

"These are important changes to the Wireless Emergency Alert system," argued Rosenworcel in a statement.

An FCC representative offered a response to Patronis' letter: "Life-saving emergency alert systems are the law, as is the requirement that FEMA conduct periodic nationwide tests and they are responsible for setting the date and time of these tests. The FCC strongly supports emergency alerting which save lives in communities across the country."

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like