U.S. FCC proposes upgraded wireless emergency alerts

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 19, 2015 6:36 PM

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Thursday proposed upgrading wireless emergency alerts to the nation's more than 350 million mobile phones.

The commission voted 5-0 to propose new rules that would expand the maximum length of emergency text message alerts to 360 characters from the current 90 characters, and enable alerts to include phone numbers and web addresses "to improve message quality and accessibility."

The FCC cited the attacks last Friday in Paris and the threat of terrorism in the United States as a factor in discussing the need for upgraded alerts.

The commission's proposal also calls for a new class of action-oriented alerts like "boil water" or "shelter in place" warnings during severe weather. It would also require mobile phone carriers to deliver alerts to more specific geographic

areas.

Wireless emergency alerts have been in place since 2012 to warn phone users of missing children, severe weather and other emergencies. Some of those for missing children are dubbed "Amber Alerts."

A U.S. group told the FCC earlier this year that 767 abducted children "have been safely returned specifically

because of the Amber Alert Program."

More than 90 percent of U.S. adults own a mobile phone, and 64 percent own a "smart phone," according to the Pew Research Center. More than 40 percent of U.S. households have only a mobile phone and do not have a landline.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler)