Storms Call Attention to FM Chips

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn this week visited areas of Florida that suffered under Hurricane Irma. In the course of their visits, Pai elevated attention to the utility of radio tuner chips that already exist in mobile phones, if only tech companies would activate them. Speaking to a PBS station on Monday, Pai said, “The FM chip is a valuable functionality, not just when times are good or when it helps you save battery life or reduces congestion on the wireless network, but especially when there’s an emergency.”

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 have this functionality switched off. South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel took umbrage with this after Hurricane Irma. In an editorial this week, the newspaper targeted its fire at Apple, producer of the dominant iPhone. “Apple’s resistance is unacceptable,” it said. “No company’s bottom line should stand in the way of Floridians receiving life-saving information. Given our nation’s dependence on cell phones, the smartphone’s FM switch is a public safety issue.”

The NRB Board of Directors approved a resolution in February 2012 calling for such expanded availability of broadcast radio services in mobile phones.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: September 22, 2017

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