New Legislation Would Require Streaming Services to Provide Emergency Alerts





People looking at smartphones

People looking at smartphonesU.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and John Thune (R-S.D.) have reintroduced the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act.

The READI Act was created after a missile alert went out in Hawaii last year. Many people missed the alert when they never got a message on their phones, TVs, or radios. It was a false alarm, but clearly pointed out a flaw in the system.

“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,” said Senator Schatz, lead Democrat on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet.

“South Dakotans understand how drastically the weather can change on a dime,” said Senator Thune, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet. “For that reason, among many others, this legislation would make necessary improvements to help keep South Dakotans and communities around the country safe in times of emergency.”

If passed, the READI Act would give more individuals access to relevant emergency alerts on their phones, TVs, and radios by making those alerts available on audio and video streaming services. The legislation would also look at false alerts to determine how to improve the way states can prepare for alerts.

The READI Act would:

  • 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Communications Committees to periodically review and update their State Emergency Alert System Plans, which are often out of date;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.

The READI Act is support 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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