A bipartisan bill was recently reintroduced in the Senate to require audio and video streaming services to display emergency alerts like those for hurricanes and tornadoes while you’re watching or listening to them.
The bill, which was introduced by U.S. senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-S.D.), was originally introduced by the senators last year after a false missile alert text was inadvertently sent out in Hawaii.
Called the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act, the legislation’s goal is to ensure that more people are able to receive emergency alerts.
“When a missile alert went out across Hawaii last year, some people never got the message on their phones, while others missed it on their TVs and radios. Even though it was a false alarm, the missile alert exposed real flaws in the way people receive emergency alerts,” Schatz, the lead Democrat on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, said in a prepared statement. “Our bill fixes a number of important problems with the system responsible for delivering emergency alerts. In a real emergency, these alerts can save lives so we have to do everything we can to get it right.”
According to a blog post on Schatz’s site, the READI Act would ultimately:
•Ensure more people receive emergency alerts by eliminating the option to opt-out of receiving certain federal alerts, including missile alerts, on mobile phones;
•Require active alerts issued by the President or FEMA to be repeated. Currently, alerts on TV or radio may only be played once;
•Explore establishing a system to offer emergency alerts to audio and video online streaming services, such as Netflix and Spotify;
•Encourage State Emergency Communications Committees to periodically review and update their State Emergency Alert System Plans, which are often out of date;
•Compel FEMA to create best practices for state, tribal, and local governments to use for issuing alerts, avoiding false alerts, and retracting false alerts if they occur, as well as for alert origination training and plans for officials to contact each other and federal officials during emergencies; and
•Establish a reporting system for false alerts so the FCC can track when they occur and examine their causes.
In addition to the Senate bill, companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawai‘i), Pete Olson (R-Texas), and Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.). The READI Act is supported by NCTA — The Internet and Television Association, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Internet Association, CTIA — The Wireless Association, and the Wireless Infrastructure Association.
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