Apple Called Out on FM Chips

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has placed a major focus on ways the agency can aid in relief after the devastation caused by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria on American territory. In addition to visiting affected regions and receiving a report from the FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau at this week’s open meeting, Pai took another practical step by formally calling on Apple to activate FM chips in popular iPhones.

In a statement released on Thursday, Chairman Pai said, “When wireless networks go down during a natural disaster, smartphones with activated FM chips can allow Americans to get vital access to life-saving information.” He applauded mobile phone companies that have activated that chip, but remarked, “Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so.”

FM chips are built into many smartphones and are activated in models sold in other parts of the world. However, most mobile phones in the United States, including the seemingly ubiquitous iPhone, have this functionality switched off. Pai said, “It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first.”

Notably, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, also wants tech companies like Apple to activate FM chips. While surveying the damage of Hurricane Irma, he told reporters, “The bottom line is consumers need critical information in times of emergency. If technologies, such as radio chips, exist that will help do that during times of emergencies then companies should be doing everything in their power to employ their use.”

For his part, Pai finished his statement quoting an editorial by South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel: “Do the right thing, Mr. Cook. Flip the switch. Lives depend on it.”

  • Find here an NRB Board of Directors resolution calling for such expanded availability of broadcast radio services in mobile phones.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: September 29, 2017

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