Improved reporting on public alerts

At next week’s April Open Meeting, the FCC plans to “consider a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on proposals to strengthen the effectiveness of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), including through public reporting on the reliability, speed, and accuracy of these alerts.”

The FCC’s proceeding [pdf, 560 KB] would:

  1. Seek comment on how WEA’s reliability, speed, and accuracy should be defined, and whether these are the most pertinent measures of WEA’s performance.
  2. Seek comment on how participating wireless providersshould measure performance of WEA for the purpose of generating WEA performance reports.
  3. Seek comment on when and how WEA performance reports should be provided to the Commission.
  4. Ask questions about whether WEA performance reports should include information collected at the consumer’s device, including information about the actual time and location of alert receipt, and whether consumer devices should automatically report this information to participating wireless providers.
  5. Seek comment on ways to further improve WEA’s reliability and speed based on findings from the 2021 nationwide WEA test.

Since its launch in the US in 2012, Wireless Emergency Alerts have been used more than 61,000 times, with the voluntary participation of US wireless service providers, to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and “other critical situations”, through alerts delivered on compatible cell phones and other mobile devices.

The system has been credited with 120 successful child recoveries in the US – one for every 12 Amber Alerts issued. While the FCC acknowledges that WEA has been proven to save lives, it is proposing to launch this review in order to improve the system’s effectiveness.

Among the identified problems, “WEAs are not always received by people for whom they are intended. WEAs may be delivered too slowly to be effective in certain important use cases, and WEAs may be delivered outside of the targeted area, resulting in consumers receiving a message that is not relevant to that geographic area.”

Since its inception, I have been suggesting that Canada needs to review our own version, the National Public Alert System.

As I have said repeatedly, shouldn’t we continually be examining how the NPAS system is being deployed, to ensure that it will always be used in the best possible manner?

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