Great news: Gov’t just about ready to push alerts to cell phones

posted at 2:55 pm on May 10, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Are you ready to get local and “presidential” alerts on your cell phone?  If not, and you’re in New York City … too bad.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the Big Apple is ready to use cell phones to inform residents of missing-child alerts, emergencies, terror warnings, and other messages, whether people want to get them or not:

A new national alert system is set to begin in New York City that will alert the public to emergencies via cell phones.

It’s called the Personal Localized Alert Network or PLAN. Presidential and local emergency messages as well as Amber Alerts would appear on cell phones equipped with special chips and software.

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the system would also warn about terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

Not interested?  Well, you can opt out of all of these … except for “presidential messages.”  What exactly are “presidential messages”?  Alerts issued by the President, FEMA explains, but doesn’t get any more specific than that, except to note that “alerts involving imminent threats to safety of life” are listed as a separate category.

I don’t think a national alert system is a bad idea in concept, but shouldn’t participation be voluntary at the individual level?  Instead, the WARN Act requires participating cell carriers to have new models of phones include the PLAN chip and to push all of the messages as a default (“Customers automatically signed up,” FEMA promises).  I’m also unclear on how exactly these warnings will help, given the generally slow reaction time for announcing such warnings and the generic, uninformative nature they usually take.  Remember the old color-coding terror threat level system that the Obama administration wisely discarded this year?

FEMA argues that PLAN is a natural progression of the Emergency Broadcast System, but that required holders of government broadcasting licenses to participate, not individual consumers.  It also didn’t increase costs to television sets.  This seems more like the V-chip idea than civil defense.  For that matter, when was the last time the government actually used the EBS?  In practice, the license holders have just found it to be good business to provide their own alerts to viewers and listeners rather than wait for government to seize control of their broadcast facilities.

I can’t wait for my first “presidential message.”  Will we get the decoder ring, too?

Update: Zombie has the first five PrezMez already.


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Alert: Hey, you…drinking the real Coke. Switch to Diet… immediately.

kingsjester on May 10, 2011 at 3:21 PM

Diet Coke contains CO2 and contributes to global warming.

FloatingRock on May 10, 2011 at 3:43 PM

saiv me mistir 0bomahh!. i ain’t gots a fone that kin catch tekst massages..whut will i dew?!

ted c on May 10, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Galt2009 on May 10, 2011 at 3:26 PM

And THAT is why have never been a fan of the Patriot Act.
Trading safety for liberty is now way to live.
I prefer the option of self protection.
Law biding, packing citizens would stop of a lot of terrorist activities.

Badger40 on May 10, 2011 at 3:44 PM

imagine how many people will have heart attacks and die from panic when they see there’s a text from the White House.

Buy Danish on May 10, 2011 at 3:41 PM

Maybe that’s the point….. cut medicare costs.

Cody1991 on May 10, 2011 at 3:44 PM

I’d kill the bill-I mean, the cell phone bill. Text me with Morse code smoke signs will ya?

ProudPalinFan on May 10, 2011 at 3:48 PM

So how will it know if you are driving?

You are not supposed to text and drive you know.

Lily on May 10, 2011 at 3:48 PM

Galt2009 on May 10, 2011 at 3:26 PM

I would say that Walter Reddy seems to be a major kook.
But it doesn’t matter bcs Branch Davidians were major kooks, but so far as I know, they did not legally do anything wrong.
And yet they were targeted by the govt.
And killed for it.
In America, you are free to be a conspiracist kook, nutty religious wierdo, etc if that’s your deal.
You should not be singled out by the govt bcs of it.
Unless you are a member of a group that espouses condoning of illegal acts.

Badger40 on May 10, 2011 at 3:50 PM

What exactly are “presidential messages”?

(After pressing [2], for English.)
Psst… Don’t shop at this store, the owner donated money to your political enemies. Follow this map and these step-by-step directions and we’ll guide you from your present location to a similar store down the street.

Here’s a coupon for 10% off, (sponsored by SEIU).

FloatingRock on May 10, 2011 at 3:51 PM

Can’t we have a “G-Chip” to shut off the government noise and the endless Obama speeches???

landlines on May 10, 2011 at 3:53 PM

What else will that “Presidential Chip” do in there? Monitor my location? Send personal info directly to the CIA/FBI/DHS??

How long before we’re all “signed up” to have the chip implanted in our arms?

Communism was scary before technology. Imagine how much “better” it will be in today’s world.

KMC1 on May 10, 2011 at 3:53 PM

If the messages do not cost users anything and, of course, you can turn off the ‘service’, I have no objections but the last thing I want is constant crap on my phone, especially if I have to pay for the governments scheme…

JIMV on May 10, 2011 at 3:54 PM

What am I supposed to do with a text obamessage that says “A man made kinetic activity makes it clear that the system worked.”

pedestrian on May 10, 2011 at 3:55 PM

Six months.

amerpundit on May 10, 2011 at 3:13 PM

I think it will be closer to six WEEKS.

landlines on May 10, 2011 at 3:58 PM

Ok, putting on my tinfoil hat on (had root canal this morning so excuse me):

Gee, The Book of Revelations this time is cut-and-dry:

Revelations 13 16-18:

16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
17 and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

What’s the nick for Obama’s car: The Beast, of course!

ProudPalinFan on May 10, 2011 at 3:58 PM

I figure within a week there will be a cottage industry of folk removing the chip or designing apps to block the thing…

JIMV on May 10, 2011 at 3:59 PM

You should get some Obama letting loose some whoop a$$ on Osama art; can I commission a piece?

Firefly_76 on May 10, 2011 at 4:00 PM

crap the above was for Bishop.

Firefly_76 on May 10, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Since I don’t have a cell phone (I’m not a big fan of brain tumors, which they most certainly cause)I guess I won’t be getting any alerts.That idiot Bloomberg has got to go.

LODGE4 on May 10, 2011 at 3:27 PM

I’ve followed this assertion for a while now.
I’m sorry if you ‘believe’ it, but there’s really only hearsay & inconclusive studies that even hint at this being a cause of such things. Which means they have not been substantiated conclusively to cause cancers.
If you want to be afraid of something, be more afraid of your government.
BTW-I’m not trying to be a jerk here.
But that is an ignorant statement that only serves to cause hysteria in other ignorant people.
Like Jenny Garth & the whole vaccines-cause-autism thing.
UNsubstantiated hysterics.

Badger40 on May 10, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Imagine how much “better” it will be in today’s world.

KMC1 on May 10, 2011 at 3:53 PM

Stalin & Hitler (sorry Godwin nutbags) would REALLY have loved today’s technology.
They were always using science to try & make their verson of a dictatorship work.
They would just eat this stuff up.

Badger40 on May 10, 2011 at 4:04 PM

angryed on May 10, 2011 at 3:42 PM

I’ve combed the posts on several threads from today…and the only thread I’ve seen crr6 active, and defending, was the appeals court of Dems, who will rule on Obama care.

They haven’t come here, or any of the other threads to debunk, defend, or even lie to us, about any of this crap coming from Obama. So obviously they support it.

capejasmine on May 10, 2011 at 4:06 PM

And THAT is why have never been a fan of the Patriot Act.
Trading safety for liberty is now way to live.
I prefer the option of self protection.
Law biding, packing citizens would stop of a lot of terrorist activities.

Badger40 on May 10, 2011 at 3:44 PM

__________________________________________

All we have is that article, and If what was written in the article was true – that he was not charged with a crime, the SWAT raid and confiscation of his guns sounds disturbing.

Anyone could end up on those secret lists without knowing it and if they succeed in having Federal oversight over every gun transaction, we could effectively be witnessing the end of the 2nd.

Galt2009 on May 10, 2011 at 4:06 PM

This is probably what would happen.

It would be a good idea, if the government knew what it was doing. It’s never been used and quite frankly, I don’t know of any time the government would get the official word out before people know. People were celebrating Osama’s death in Times Square before Obama announced it. The EBS was not used on 9/11 and it would seem hard for anyone not to have known by the time a message made through all the channels. The only time it would make some sense is a blackout, but I’m not sure it would be a sensible use of generators, when radio would work.

amazingmets on May 10, 2011 at 4:07 PM

I don’t have a cell phone.

Why do government discriminate people like me?

Sir Napsalot on May 10, 2011 at 4:07 PM

So far, only a couple providers give this, but they want every cell phone to have it in 2012. Just in time for the election…

Very Orwellian, if you ask me.

http://www.examiner.com/conservative-in-spokane/plan-lets-president-send-unsolicited-text-messages-to-cell-phones

jdawg on May 10, 2011 at 4:09 PM

Damn, I hope it comes with a reply button!

stvnscott on May 10, 2011 at 4:12 PM

This isn’t really any different than the old EBS. What would annoy the crap out of me is if they start doing the “this is only a test” messages on my cell. If you have to test the system, it better not count against my monthly text allotment.

gryphon202 on May 10, 2011 at 4:14 PM

“TESTING, TESTING, ONE, TWO, THREE…IS THIS THING ON? TESTING…”

- McBloomie

ornery_independent on May 10, 2011 at 4:16 PM

I’m sure no President will ever misuse the ability to override cell phones with their own message.

Thanks for considering future implications, Dems.

hawksruleva on May 10, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Does it come with that really cool EBS ringtone that we now enjoy on TV?

ornery_independent on May 10, 2011 at 4:17 PM

I don’t have a cell phone.

Why do government discriminate people like me?

Sir Napsalot on May 10, 2011 at 4:07 PM

You’re right. That’s why Uncle Sam has programs to hand out cell phones to people.

hawksruleva on May 10, 2011 at 4:18 PM

Alert: text 5555 666 to contribute to my campaign!

Firefly_76 on May 10, 2011 at 3:03 PM

FIFY.

Mary in LA on May 10, 2011 at 4:21 PM

I can see this being used for PSAs like

ALERT: Just a friendly reminder today is election day.

Nothing wrong with that right? Except when due to a “technical glitch” only cell phones with area codes 212, 415, 312 and other urban areas receive the message.

angryed on May 10, 2011 at 4:24 PM

Watch used cellphone prices on eBay start going through the roof.

YehuditTX on May 10, 2011 at 4:35 PM

What exactly are “presidential messages”?

That would be like Obama’s campaign speech today.

The entire speech would go to your phone.

You will have to listen to the entire speech and CORRECTLLY answer key questions throughout the speech to ensure you actually listen to the entire speech.

Your phone will be deactivated for your personal uses until you listen to the entire speech and CORRECTLLY answer key questions.

Also to ensure you get the message your phone will “beep” “Yes we can, yes we can” every three min until you fulfill your requirement.

DSchoen on May 10, 2011 at 4:35 PM

I can’t wait until they start pushing emergency “Vote for Obama” messages in 2012.

Dasher on May 10, 2011 at 4:37 PM

They haven’t come here, or any of the other threads to debunk, defend, or even lie to us, about any of this crap coming from Obama. So obviously they support it.

capejasmine on May 10, 2011 at 4:06 PM

But they apparently can’t defend it, hence their absence.

Lily on May 10, 2011 at 4:41 PM

I figure within a week there will be a cottage industry of folk removing the chip or designing apps to block the thing…

JIMV on May 10, 2011 at 3:59 PM

Yep. For a small fee, anyone can jailbreak an iPhone and use 3rd party stuff for all sorts of neat things. I have no doubt that the app to block government texts has already been developed. While jailbreaking invalidates the warranty of the phone, all evidence of jailbreaking is removed if you use the ‘Restore’ option on iTunes. Nice try, Feds. You’ll be outsmarted by nerdy 14 year olds with too much time on their hands. Love it.

joejm65 on May 10, 2011 at 4:50 PM

Getting back to the subject, there is one major hole in this legislation.

If someone is driving and gets a government alert, looks at their phone, and wrecks their car WHO is LEGALLY responsible?

Looks to me that the government is now involved.

Freddy on May 10, 2011 at 4:50 PM

Communism was scary before technology. Imagine how much “better” it will be in today’s world.
KMC1 on May 10, 2011 at 3:53 PM

This isn’t Communism, this is the Smart Socialism.
This will be the Presidential SS he talked about in the during the last campaign.

Remember the group he wanted that would be just as powerful as our current military, but would only be used within the USA!

DSchoen on May 10, 2011 at 4:53 PM

And another thing,

Remember when ‘New Deal Used cars’ tapped into the presidential address? How long until some hacker does the same thing with this new ‘feature’?

Freddy on May 10, 2011 at 4:55 PM

It wasn’t even used on 9/11. I remember some comic making a joke about it, but it’s pretty true. I mean, if 9/11 wasn’t the appropriate time, then there is such thing and the whole system should be scrapped.

But I’m not against these kinds of messages in theory.

Esthier on May 10, 2011 at 3:34 PM

I don’t know where you lived on 9/11 but I was 15 at the time and actually DIDN’T have television service (family had just moved and cable guy was coming THAT DAY to hook it up/turn it on) and I remember hearing the EBS on the radio which we had on all day (and most of the night) until the cable guy showed up near 9pm.

Then again I lived within 30-45 minutes of the Pentagon so that probably had something to do with it.

Most of the time the EBS is used for weather issues such as flooding, tornadoes, wildfires, etc in my experience.

Now about the other issue folks raised about cell phone service being down in major disasters.

During 9/11 as most folks pointed out, cell service was overwhelmed and fried out-so to speak.

Living through the Beltway Sniper attacks in 2002 the same thing happened then whenever they struck another victim.

Finally living through the Virginia Tech Massacre/Shootings/whatever name you want to use, within 10 minutes of the news hitting the LOCAL airwaves (and nearly 30 minutes before becoming NATIONAL news) the cell phone voice service was overwhelmed yet again. I was able to get a text message or two out to my parents letting them know what happened but they were unable to contact me for some time and feared the worst.

I remember having to have my Mom’s boyfriend call into my dorm landline from his office (as you were required to buy an outgoing call plan to call out and everyone had cell phones so it was very rarely used) and then conference call both of my parents so they could talk to me.

Finally as far as “people being able to track you”, U.S. Federal regulation (enacted in 2000 by the FCC) already requires that cell phone manufacturers have technology in the phone to locate you in the event of an emergency called the E-911 (Enhanced-911) system that can locate you by a combination of GPS, service provider records, and cell phone tower triangulation provided the following conditions are met:

1.) You dial 911 from any E-911 compliant phone (any phone created since 2004/05 and sold in North America or intended for distribution in the North American Continent)
2.) The answering station/call center has the technology in place to receive E-911 data.

Canada, via it’s CRTC (same as our FCC) has pushed the same regulations out albeit slightly later than our FCC.

As long as the phone has battery power in the U.S. it can dial into 911 even if the contract has expired/bill has not been paid.

A similar form of tracking can be employed with the issuance of a Search Warrant, Missing Person/Amber Alert, FISA warrant, etc

and some of the most modern phones can be remotely turned on by the service provider (provided of course that they have some power source and the necessary hardware locally) to locate people in these cases.

SgtSVJones on May 10, 2011 at 4:56 PM

My cell phone is 4 years old and it’s about time to get a new one. No smart phone or i-phone, I just use low-tech. Guess I’d better get one PDQ before any sketchy chips are inserted.

disa on May 10, 2011 at 5:02 PM

SgtSVJones on May 10, 2011 at 4:56 PM

Well that explains why 99% of all the cellphones everybody carried around was an iPhone. Cameras were pointing at ME while dude was chatting in the Metro, letting whoever-that-is that he was gonna get off at the next one.

It was crazy…years ago it was hard to spot spooks in DC, now they are everywhere. And almost all the smartphones/iPhones’ cams were aiming at us.

Must’ve been the “Sarah!” bumper sticker/sarc

ProudPalinFan on May 10, 2011 at 5:12 PM

We don’t get cell service within 15 mi of our house. Guess I’ll miss out on all those important presidential messages.

Kissmygrits on May 10, 2011 at 5:25 PM

Seriously, don’t these frickin’ idiots have anything better to do?

I will be soooo thrilled to get a text 5 seconds before I’m blown to smithereens.

Thanks.

Tim Zank on May 10, 2011 at 3:08 PM

+1000000

laurakbarr on May 10, 2011 at 5:29 PM

Can telephone companies opt of of this and say they don’t want to put a stupid chip in their phone?

JavelinaBomb on May 10, 2011 at 5:30 PM

If congress did not authorize this is it legal? At what cost?

Dasher on May 10, 2011 at 5:40 PM

Watch used cellphone prices on eBay start going through the roof.

YehuditTX on May 10, 2011 at 4:35 PM

This.

TASS71 on May 10, 2011 at 5:43 PM

Ovaltine is sh!t

esnap on May 10, 2011 at 5:51 PM

If congress did not authorize this is it legal? At what cost?

Dasher on May 10, 2011 at 5:40 PM

Congress approved it in 2006

kevmack on May 10, 2011 at 5:55 PM

What exactly are “presidential messages”? Alerts issued by the President, FEMA explains

Hello, this is your President. We notice you haven’t checked the air pressure in your auto tires today, that you used an incandescent bulb and used air conditioning in your house yesterday, and that you’re habitually flushing your toilet in excess of federal guidelines. Please arrange for you and your family to meet with our FEMA re-education counselor in your home this afternoon at 5:00 PM.

petefrt on May 10, 2011 at 6:12 PM

Um, Terrorists have cellphones also

Kini on May 10, 2011 at 6:50 PM

There’s already a free OPTIONAL service to get Amber Alerts sent to your phone.

I know this because I chose to sign up for the service.

I’m not big on non-optional services.

And, yes, I know, you can opt out. However, everyone knows that opt-out is usually “in” whether you want to be or not. That’s why most places passed laws against opt-out email lists and the like.

JadeNYU on May 10, 2011 at 6:54 PM

If I was a terrorist I am loving this. Worse case scenario. Build a dozen bombs, plant them all over the city and use cell phones as triggers. Wait for the message and voila!

No phone to trace it back too since homeland security would be the ones which sent the signal to activate it. For the impatient type they could even stage and event which would then trigger the government into sending out a signal.

C’mon people you can have fun with this.

Idjits. How would you like to be working on the bomb squad. You are carefully approaching a bomb trying to figure out how to defuse it when all of a sudden Janet Nincompoop sends out a message to let you know there has been no increase in the terrorist threat level.

I guess if their intent is to kill the cell phone business I would have to say mission accomplished.

Just A Grunt on May 10, 2011 at 7:25 PM

Since I think I’m the only person left in the country without a cell phone, knock yourself out.

catmman on May 10, 2011 at 3:13 PM

Nope nope nope. Me too.

Alana on May 10, 2011 at 8:08 PM

I cannot believe that I will be forced to allow this POS jerk Obama to send me messages on my private phone. How long until we are required to have little radios on at all times, tuned to his propoganda station?

GaltBlvnAtty on May 10, 2011 at 8:32 PM

Reminds me of the weather alert radio we had years ago. We lived in the middle of the state and got constant small craft warnings from the Gulf of Mexico.

Come home and the damn thing would be beeping (very loudly, too) away.

We got rid of it.

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 10, 2011 at 9:57 PM

How can he all of the sudden just order this into our phones?

This makes me want to cry. Have we lost all control over our own lives?

PattyJ on May 11, 2011 at 12:41 AM

Here is Verizon’s CEO contact info to protest:

http://www.nader.org/index.php?/archives/2254-Letter-to-Verizon-CEO-Ivan-Seidenberg.html

PattyJ on May 11, 2011 at 12:46 AM

Unlocked. Prepaid. Default = switched off!

My cell phone is for me to make an urgent call. That is all!

OldEnglish on May 11, 2011 at 3:22 AM

I’m so glad I never bought a cell phone.

zoyclem on May 11, 2011 at 7:16 AM

Didn’t the Cylons also have a PLAN?

GT on May 11, 2011 at 8:44 AM

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