Gus Bilirakis ‘pleased’ as FCC chair announces plan on more targeted wireless alerts

Maybe, it was a drill, after all.

Tarpon Springs Republican Gus Bilirakis is applauding a proposal unveiled last week by the Federal Communications Commission that will ensure that wireless alerts are delivered only to specific regions in danger.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that providers who participate in the FCC’s Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program will be required to “deliver alerts in a more geographically targeted manner.”

“This would encourage more local officials to use these alerts during emergencies as well as lead Americans to take more seriously the alerts they receive on their mobile devices,” Pai said in a statement last week. “More precise geographic targeting should also lead to fewer people opting out of receiving WEA messages.”

Bilirakis, who brought up the issue during a congressional hearing last May, says it’s the right thing to do.

“As I indicated last spring, I truly believe that continuing to strengthen the program as new innovations and technology becomes available will have a tremendous impact on the program’s success,” Bilirakis says. “For example, this FCC action could result in real-time road closure notifications during a coastal evacuation or the alerting of people within a targeted range of a pending child abduction.

“By making the information more relevant to the target audience, we can significantly increase the effectiveness of this lifesaving program. I am pleased to see the Chairman take this action, and I look forward to its consideration at the FCC.”

As suggested by Bilirakis during a hearing held last spring by the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, geographic targeting will give more specific information to those who need it, without unnecessarily alerting and confusing others. The messages people receive will be more directly applicable to a person’s immediate surroundings.

The development comes just as the country is focusing on the emergency alert system after citizens in Hawaii received an emergency missile alert incorrectly sent Saturday morning. It took the agency 38 minutes to send a second alert confirming the first message was a false alarm.

Bilirakis is demanding an immediate review of emergency alert message deployment to include safeguards that would prevent fraudulent or accidental mass messages.

“We cannot have another false alarm like we saw in Hawaii this weekend,” Bilirakis said. “Spreading unnecessary panic, especially without an immediate follow-up notification of the error, does not adhere to the public safety mission.”

The FCC will vote on making the wireless alerts more geographically targeted at their monthly meeting Jan. 30.

Watch Bilirakis address speak with Dr. Farrokh Khatibi, the director of Engineering Qualcomm Technologies and Christopher Guttman-McCabe, CEO, CGM Advisors, LLC, on behalf of Advanced Computer and Communications:

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected].


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