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How Hurricane Harvey Highlights Need to Modernize Wireless Emergency Alerts

Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast on August 25. The Category 4 storm brought massive rainfall and unprecedented flooding to the Houston area and emergency procedures are underway for what may be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. One critical component of rescue operations is maintaining reliable communications networks, a key mission of the Federal Communications Commission. Large-scale crises often reveal the difficulties governments and residents have communicating critical information when networks are at peak use. For years, wireless carriers and policymakers have been debating updates to the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system, trying to craft policy that would better enable mobile devices to receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting people of imminent threats to safety in their area. Even as first responders are working to rescue people at risk in South Texas, the disaster is returning attention to the WEA debate.

Before Hurricane Harvey, wireless carriers lobbied against upgrades to a national emergency alert system

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States

For years, the Federal Communications Commission has endeavored to upgrade the sort of short text-based messages — often accompanied by a loud alarm — that authorities have used since 2012 to warn Americans about rising floods, abducted children and violent criminals at large. But efforts to bring those alerts into the digital age — requiring, for example, that they include multimedia and foreign-language support — have been met with skepticism or opposition from the likes of AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile, and even some device makers, too.

Text to 911 Poses Technology, Funding and Political Challenges

Location:
USA, United States

The ability to send text messages to 911 anywhere in the US could enhance public safety answering points’ (PSAPs’) ability to respond to emergency situations – and could be particularly important when the person contacting the PSAP is unable to place a traditional phone call. But although some PSAPs already support text to 911 capability, the capability is far from ubiquitous, and achieving it more broadly will require addressing technology, funding and political issues.

FCC Clears Path For Transition From TTY Technology To Real-Time Text

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States
Recommendation:
3

The Federal Communications Commission amended its rules to allow phone companies to replace support for an outdated form of text telephone communications, known as TTY, with support for real-time text, to provide reliable telephone communications for Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or who have a speech disability.

FCC To Hold Open Commission Meeting Thursday, December 15, 2016

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States
Recommendation:
3

The Federal Communications Commission will hold an Open Meeting on the subjects listed below on Thursday, December 15, 2016:

FCC Enforcement Advisory--Robotext Consumer Protection--Text Message Senders Must Comply With The Telephone Consumer Protection Act

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States
Recommendation:
3

The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau issues this Advisory to promote understanding of the clear limits on the use of autodialed text messages, known as “robotexts.”

Why Apple can be forced to turn logs of your iMessage contacts over to police

Location:
Apple, 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA, 95014, United States
Recommendation:
2

When a user sends someone a message through Apple’s iMessage feature, Apple encrypts that message between Apple devices so that only the sender and recipient can read its contents. But a report from news site the Intercept is a good reminder that not all data related to iMessage has that same level of protection -- and that information can still be turned over to law enforcement authorities. That may be surprising to everyday users who view Apple as a privacy champion after it's legal battle with the Justice Department this year over a court order that would force the company to break its own security measures. But to experts, it's just a fact of how communication systems work. For instance, as security expert and noted iPhone hacker Will Strafach notes, Apple needs to know things such as whom you're chatting with via iMessage so that it can deliver your messages.

Sen Schumer joins call for updates to mobile emergency alerts

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States
Recommendation:
3

Sen Charles Schumer (D-NY) joined the chorus of New York officials calling for changes to a key mobile emergency alerts system after bombings in Manhattan and New Jersey.

Why Homeland Security Unleashed an 'Alien Virus' on Silicon Valley

Location:
Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC, 20528, United States
Recommendation:
1

This was, of course, just an exercise, a scenario dubbed "Alien Catastrophe" by researchers with funding from the Department of Homeland Security to test new technologies for public alerts.

New Yorkers Just Received a Terrible Emergency Alert

Location:
New York City, NY, United States
Recommendation:
2

At around eight o’clock am Sept 19, anyone in New York City who has emergency alerts turned on got a blaring message on their smartphone. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs for short), are to be used, according to the Federal Communications Commission, in three cases: Amber Alerts, alerts from the president, and alerts involving imminent threats to safety. This alert serves none of those purposes.

House Communications Subcommittee Advances Two Telecom Bills

Location:
House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and Internet, Independence Avenue and South Capitol Street, Washington, DC, 20003, United States
Recommendation:
3

House Communications Subcommittee approved two measures: one aimed at improving call reliability in rural areas and another that would make it illegal for anyone outside the country to fake their caller identification information when texting someone inside the US.

FCC Seeks Comment on Network Communications International Corp. Petition for Expedited Declaratory Ruling

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States
Recommendation:
3

With this Public Notice, we seek comment on a petition for expedited declaratory ruling filed by Network Communications International Corp (NCIC).

Real-Time Text: An IP-Based Solution for Accessible Communications

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States
Recommendation:
3

The Federal Communications Commission recently adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding a proposal to use real-time text as a replacement technology for TTY – teletypewriter technology.

Americans' Data Usage More Than Doubled in 2015

Location:
CTIA, 1400 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20036, United States
Recommendation:
3

CTIA released its annual survey results, which found Americans used 9.6 trillion megabytes (MB) of data in 2015, three times the 3.2 trillion MB in 2013. This is the equivalent of consumers streaming 59,219 videos every minute or roughly 18 million MB. Smartphones are the number one wireless device in the US and still growing.

CTIA’s Annual Wireless Industry Survey

Location:
CTIA, 1400 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20036, United States
Recommendation:
1

Americans used 9.6 trillion megabytes (MB) of data in 2015, three times the 3.2 trillion MB in 2013.

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Telecom Policy Potpourri

It was a busy week for telecommunications policy. The Federal Communications Commission held its April Open Meeting, and Congress had some legislation move along, including the E-mail Privacy Act. Below, we take a sampling of this week’s potpourri.

FCC Adopts Real-Time Text Proposed Rulemaking

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States
Recommendation:
4

The Federal Communications Commission approved a proposal to utilize real-time text to ensure that people with disabilities who rely on text to communicate have accessible and effective telephone access. As communications networks migrate to IP-based environments, this technology would allow Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech disabled or deaf-blind to use the same wireless communications devices as their friends, relatives and colleagues, and more seamlessly integrate into tomorrow’s communications networks.

FCC Announces Tentative Agenda For April 2016 Open Meeting

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States
Recommendation:
2

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the following items are tentatively on the agenda for the April Open Commission Meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 28, 2016 ...

Sprint and T-Mobile in on Worldwide Google RCS Initiative

Location:
Mobile World Congress, Barcelona, 08004, Spain
Recommendation:
2

Google has assembled a broad-based international group of wireless carriers in a bid to develop a global open and interoperable messaging service for Android devices.

How 10 text messages can help families find out if they qualify for food stamps

Location:
Chicago, IL, United States
Recommendation:
2

The web and text-based app mRelief, which lets families know if they're eligible in 10 messages or fewer, is currently being used in Chicago for a range of services, including Medicaid and early childhood programs.

FCC Open Meeting April 2016

Apr 28 2016 - 10:30am - 12:30pm
Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States

The agenda is now available.

Smartphone users shift from talking to tapping

Location:
Deloitte, 1633 Broadway, New York, NY, 10019, United States
Recommendation:
1

More than a quarter of smartphone users in developed markets will not typically use the devices for traditional voice calls this year, according to research showing that the handsets are increasingly being used for data use only.

How should the FCC classify text messages?

Location:
American Enterprise Institute (AEI), 1150 Seventeenth Street, Washington, DC, 20036, United States
Recommendation:
2

The Federal Communications Commission will consider how to regulate a service that most Americans use every day. No, I’m not talking about the Internet and the Open Internet order. On December 21, the reply comment period closed on the Twilio petition, which asks a truly geeky, yet important, telecommunications question: Is a text message more like a phone call in text format, or more like an email that happens to be sent over the telephone network? The answer could have significant ramifications for the future of texting.

AT&T, Verizon try to prevent ban on text message blocking

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States
Recommendation:
2

AT&T, Verizon, and other wireless carriers are urging the Federal Communications Commission to reject a petition that would impose common carrier regulations on text messaging.

Public Knowledge, Other Consumer Groups Urge FCC to Protect Text Messaging Users

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States
Recommendation:
1

Public Knowledge, Common Cause and Free Press filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission urging it to recognize that carrier-provided text messaging is a telecommunications service that benefits from the protections of Title II of the Communications Act.

How Social Media Is Ruining Politics

Location:
USA, United States
Recommendation:
2

Our political discourse is shrinking to fit our smartphone screens.

Mobile Messaging and Social Media 2015

Location:
Pew Research Center, 1615 L Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20036, United States
Recommendation:
2

2015 marks the first time Pew Research Center has asked specifically about mobile messaging apps as a separate kind of mobile activity apart from cell phone texting. And already, according to a new survey, 36 percent of smartphone owners report using messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Kik or iMessage, and 17 percent use apps that automatically delete sent messages such as Snapchat or Wickr.

Texting Comes of Age as a Political Messenger

Location:
USA, United States
Recommendation:
2

The killer app for the 2016 presidential campaign is not an app at all. It is not even new. Texting — that 1990s-vintage technology — has suddenly become a go-to vehicle for presidential campaigns when they need to get a message out as widely and quickly as possible, and with confidence that it will be read.

Don't Hate the Phone Call, Hate the Phone

Location:
USA, United States
Recommendation:
1

The distaste for telephony is acute among Millennials, who have come of age in a world of AIM and texting, then gchat and iMessage, but it’s hardly limited to young people. When asked, people with a distaste for phone calls argue that they are presumptuous and intrusive, especially given alternative methods of contact that don’t make unbidden demands for someone’s undivided attention.

Texting Parents to get Kids Ready 4K!

Location:
Stanford University, 471 Lagunita Drive Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford, CA, United States
Recommendation:
1

Over the past few years, a growing number of early education programs focused on building literacy skills are seeking to address this issue at an early age with the help of technological tools. Ready 4K! is one program that shows evidence of succeeding at closing the word gap.

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