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Cellphones Get Government Chips For Disaster Alert 374

Posted by timothy
from the shouldn't-the-opt-out-go-the-other-way? dept.
Jeremiah Cornelius writes "The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski, said the Commercial Mobile Alert System that Congress approved in 2006 will direct messages to cellphones in case of a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other serious emergency. There will be at least three levels of messages, ranging from a critical national alert from the president to warnings about impending or occurring national disasters to alerts about missing or abducted children. The alert would show up on the phone's front screen, instead of the traditional text message inbox, and arrive with a distinct ring and probably a vibration. People will be able to opt out of receiving all but the presidential alerts."
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Cellphones Get Government Chips For Disaster Alert

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  • by snsh (968808) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @05:54PM (#36088466)

    Every Amber Alert I've seen was related to simple custody disputes among mothers, fathers, and relatives. The kids are not in real danger, but sometimes on TV they claim danger because the kid is on insulin or Ritalin or something.

  • by QuasiSteve (2042606) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:22PM (#36088746)

    The Netherlands has such a system on standard text messages. The broadcasting agency in question simply selects what region to broadcast an SMS-alert to, and all cellphones within that region (basically the ones currently registered to given towers) get the SMS if the user signed up for the type of alert in question (though some can override, i.e. in case of major disaster.. say a chlorine spill).

    Before the text messages, they used a different system - the SMS-cell broadcast channels. Many older phones are capable of receiving these, but most users aren't signed up for the channels in question. Many newer phones don't even offer an interface to this anymore. Hence the switch to SMS.
    Most of the channels are also not used by providers in NL. They figured out that they could get more money by offering information for-pay, or letting for-pay SMS operators pay them, than giving the information for free. I.e. current local time, weather, etc. The only one that seems to be consistently available is channel 050; area code. Even though NL hardly has area code segmentation anymore, and certainly not for cellphones, it's still reported, and crossing into some other municipality does cause a cell broadcast notification on my older phone.

    Long story short - why do they want a separate chip, exactly?

  • RAGE (Score:4, Informative)

    by OrangeTide (124937) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:25PM (#36088774) Homepage Journal

    If they start testing it on my cellphone that often I'm going to pretty much go berserk.

  • by inputdev (1252080) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:26PM (#36088784)
    wow, scary, thanks for the history lesson, I knew Hitler was big into TV, etc., but I didn't know about this. The link didn't work for me, though: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volksempfanger [wikipedia.org]
    I'm glad I'm not the only one that doesn't think this is "good for the people"
  • by AndroSyn (89960) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:27PM (#36088798) Homepage

    Long story short - why do they want a separate chip, exactly?

    Nowhere on the fcc.gov site linked in the story does it say anything about phones requiring any sort of chip. Basically the important part of the system is the secure interface between government and the wireless providers. In short this is more like the EAS system, but for mobile phones. Chances are most network carriers *will* implement this over SMS.

  • by Panaflex (13191) <convivialdingo AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:46PM (#36088938)

    First off, there are no new chips required... this standard is designed to operate off existing 3gpp type interfaces over gsm/cdma/etc.. The standard is pretty open ended on the handset as far as protocols, only specifying that the message be presented in a an attention getting way.

    The interesting thing I think is how to secure the federal gateway... I'm guessing they'll use a dedicated frame relay from the federal CMAS system to the commercial gateways.

    These standards are being published by ANSI, they are J-STD-100, J-STD-101, J-STD-102. You may be able to find some of the documents on the 3gpp2.org web site.

    If you've got $850 bucks laying around, you can read all three interface specifications yourself below:
    Device presentation specs:
    http://webstore.ansi.org/RecordDetail.aspx?sku=J-STD-100 [ansi.org]

    Federal CMAS gateway specification (http specs):
    http://webstore.ansi.org/RecordDetail.aspx?sku=J-STD-101 [ansi.org]

    Federal CMAS gateway specification (testing specs):
    http://webstore.ansi.org/RecordDetail.aspx?sku=J-STD-102 [ansi.org]

  • Re:Disable it (Score:5, Informative)

    by mtxmorph (669251) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:59PM (#36089014) Homepage
    I don't know where the article gets this "chip" idea from -- that is completely bogus.

    The system uses the standard cell broadcast system (CBS) as its backend, and most phones have supported that forever. It is basically an application which sits on top of CBS.
  • by Professr3 (670356) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @07:10PM (#36089092)
    I would buy a phone for this.
  • by Nyder (754090) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @08:34PM (#36089640) Journal

    no messages from the president that took over TV & Radio. Closes I've ever seen was when Reagen was shot, but that wasn't a message (well, it was a message to Reagen) to the people.

    Shit, the first Gulf War is probably the only thing I've ever seen that took over almost all the TV Stations.

    No, the president doesn't need a direct communicans with me. Never has, never will.

    If he needs me to fix his computer, he can call me like everyone else.

  • Re:Specificity (Score:5, Informative)

    by cbunix23 (1119459) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @09:28PM (#36089896)

    I wonder what level of geographical specificity is possible? Hopefully this will broadcast to selected towers instead of selected phone numbers.

    I work on the Alcatel-Lucent product being used by AT&T, VZW, Sprint, and others. I've been involved with this product since day one. Alert areas can be as small as one cell, or it can be the entire United States. Target areas can be based on geocodes (states, counties, some cities, FEMA regions, NWS regions, and some others), polygons, circles. How FEMA and NWS end up using it is an open question, but I get the impression most of the alerts they will generate will go out at the county level. Just like the "tornado sirens" now. This may get refined over time to smaller areas as they gain experience with the system.

If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong. -- Norm Schryer

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