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NAB: Broadcasters Answering Calls for Reliable Emergency Info

8/20/2012 11:36 AM Eastern

Broadcasting, both radio and TV, is the most reliable communications service during emergencies, the National Association of Broadcasters told the FCC on Monday in comments on the robustness of 911 service after the "Derecho" storms that pounded the D.C. area and other parts of the East Coast in late June.

"Despite the growth of cable, satellite and the Internet, broadcasting continues to be the primary means of communicating with the public before and after disasters," NAB said. It told the FCC that when access to cable or the Internet "falter" due to power outages, broadcasters can still be on the air and accessible via batter-operated receivers. Broadcasters also argued their service gas the built-in redundancy most stations have generators and back-up equipment, and that its "one-to-many" architecture makes it more robust than other platforms.

NAB cited the storms as only the most recent example of the robustness and redundancy of broadcasts of detailed emergency info. It also used the comments to ask the FCC to encourage wireless carriers to given consumers better info on what mobile devices have active FM chips that allow those phones to be broadcast receivers as well. NAB has long complained that though the majority of those devices have an FM chip for Bluetooth, most not been activated for radio reception.

"It is time to seriously consider steps needed to improve consumer access to free, over-the-air radio via smartphones and other mobile devices," NAB said. It also talked about the value of mobile DTV in providing emergency info.

Its bottom-line message to the FCC was that when it is talking about robust emergency communications, that conversation should include "ways to ensure -- and expand" access to over-the-air TV and radio broadcasting.

The FCC launched the inquiry into communications, or the lack of it, during the Derecho storms following complaints about 911 service outages.

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