Coming To Your Cell Phone: Text Messages From Uncle Sam - InformationWeek

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Commentary
4/10/2008
12:03 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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Coming To Your Cell Phone: Text Messages From Uncle Sam

The FCC has approved a new nationwide alert system that will send text messages to cell phones to alert Americans when an emergency, disaster, or attack occurs. Only three types of events will trigger the emergency text message, which will be sent by your carrier.

The FCC has approved a new nationwide alert system that will send text messages to cell phones to alert Americans when an emergency, disaster, or attack occurs. Only three types of events will trigger the emergency text message, which will be sent by your carrier.This is a good idea, though I am sure it will be completely ignored by many. The text messages will be sent for the following reasons: there is a terrorist or other attack that threatens the safety or health of Americans; an imminent or on-going natural disaster such as an earthquake, hurricane or tornado; or an Amber alert.

If any of these three happens, your network operator will be contacted by the government, and an alert will be sent to your mobile phone. Participation by the network operators is not mandatory, though AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon have all said they will adopt the program. Smaller, regional carriers are likely to follow suit.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin said, "The ability to deliver accurate and timely warnings and alerts through cell phones and other mobile services is an important next step in our efforts to help ensure that the American public has the information they need to take action to protect themselves and their families prior to, and during, disasters and other emergencies."

According to CNN, a yet-to-be named federal agency would create the messages and information that would go to the participating cell phone companies. Once that agency is created, all carriers who opt into the system will have to meet the requirements of the system -- which have not been made public -- within 10 months.

Sadly, subscribers will be able to opt out of receiving the messages. This sort of negates the benefit, if you ask me. Could anonymous emergency alerts become a headache? Surely. But the most important tool to have during any emergency is information. Why you'd want to restrict your access to information is beyond me.

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