Tighter Geographic Targets for Wireless Alerts in New FCC Rules
Tuesday, January 30, 2018 | Comments

The FCC adopted rules to improve the geographic targeting of wireless emergency alerts (WEA), a system that delivers critical warnings and information to the public on wireless phones. The updated rules are intended to promote the wider use and effectiveness of the service, especially for state and local authorities to convey critical messages to their communities.

The rules require participating wireless providers to deliver WEA alerts in a more geographically precise manner so that the alerts reach the communities impacted by an emergency without disturbing others. Specifically, the FCC’s rules require participating wireless providers to deliver WEA alerts to the target area specified by the alert originator with no more than one-tenth of a mile overshoot. This enhanced geotargeting requirement will go into effect Nov. 30, 2019.

The rules also require that alert messages remain available in a consumer-accessible format on wireless devices for 24 hours after receipt or until the consumer deletes the message, which will enable the public to better review emergency information.

The commission also harmonized the deadline for participating wireless providers to support Spanish-language messages with the deadline to extend the length of alert messages from 90 to 360 characters. Participating wireless providers must support both enhancements by May 1, 2019.

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