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Finally, FM Radio chips may be turned on our phones

So many natural disasters have been in the news lately. From Hurricanes Harvey and Irma devastating Houston and Florida neighborhoods, respectively, to folks in Puerto Rico who are still without power due to Hurricane Maria.

While many residents fleeing their homes turned to social media to get the latest updates on the storm and info on who to turn to for help, others still depend on the radio for information. But what if you’re not near a radio?

Help is on the way. Now, hopefully, there’s going to be another way to get the latest information via radio.

FM radio chips

The Federal Communications Commission is urging Apple to activate FM radio chips installed in iPhones. That would allow victims of natural disasters to get life-saving information when wireless networks go down.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said Apple is the one major phone carrier not activating the chips.

In a statement, Pai said, “It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first. I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.”

In fact, the FCC said more than 90 percent of cell sites in Puerto Rico remain out of service along with two-thirds in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson agrees that Apple should activate the chips.

“The bottom line is consumers need critical information in times of emergency,” Nelson said in a statement. “If technologies, such as radio chips, exist that will help do that during times of emergencies, then companies should be doing everything in their power to employ their use.”

The chief executive officer of the National Association of Broadcasters is praising bipartisan backing for the chip activation. Gordon Smith is also asking Apple to help protect the public by allowing local broadcasting on SmartPhones.

Apple Statement

Apple at first didn’t comment when the FCC lashed out against them but now has issued its own statement about a week later.

It says newer iPhone 7 and 8 models do not have FM chips “nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products.”

Note: Only 44 percent of the top-selling smartphones in the United States have the chip activated.

Apple says it does have modern safety solutions engineered into their products. Using the Lock Screen, users can dial emergency services and access Medical ID card information. Government emergency notifications also come through, according to Apple, that includes weather advisories.

The FCC is not immediately responding to Apple but instead is looking into whether they have regulatory authority to require a company, like Apple, to activate the chips.

Why does this matter? It is a big deal because when emergencies like this season’s hurricanes strike, FM radio can provide everyone with a direct line to official news and information.

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