Ex-FEMA Head Fugate Calls out Apple Over FM Chips

Craig Fugate, former FEMA administrator under President Barack Obama, is calling on Apple to activate FM chips in its iPhones.

Those chips allow smart phones to access real-time emergency broadcast info.

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Florida Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson, ranking member of the Commerce Committee, called on Apple to activate the chips. Apple responded that its latest models don't have chips in them or antennas, though the National Association of Broadcasters countered that there were millions of phones with unactivated chips.

In an op ed in the Florida Sun Sentinel, which had also called on Apple to activate the chips, Fugate called Apple's response baffling.

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"As demonstrated during Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, local governments and public safety officials rely on broadcast radio and TV to let the public know what is happening on the ground during a disaster," he said. "Even in today’s connected world, local radio and TV provide the best source of information in a crisis."

He said that there was evidence that the phones Apple said didn't have the chips (the iPhone 7 and 8) did have them and odd that Apple would claim new phones had lesser capabilities.

"As Americans face devastating natural disasters from hurricanes to wildfires to tornadoes, it is irresponsible for Apple to continue resisting this straightforward, common sense approach to public safety," Fugate said.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.