Wireless RERC on the Record: Advancing Access To Wireless Emergency Alerts

Filing Date
December 1st, 2016

Georgia Tech’s Center for Advanced Communications Policy (CACP), in collaboration with the Wireless RERC, submitted comments to the FCC’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking In the Matter of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) [PS Docket. No. 15-91]. Wireless RERC and CACP survey research (2013-2015) on WEA informed the comments. Following is a sample of the recommendations:

  • We support extending WEA rules to include tablets and other mobile devices, including wearable and other nontraditional communications devices. However, for WEA’s received on tablets and wearables to be effective, visual, haptic, and audio signaling capabilities will likely have to be incorporated into the technologies to support the WEA notification signal requirements.

  • If the outcome of the rulemaking defines WEA participation, then all providers should be required to renew their elections to ensure congruence with the new definitions.

  • With the increase in the maximum character length of WEA messages, the inclusion of URLs and dialable numbers, we anticipate an exponential increase in the need for people to be able to recall and review the message. As such, we agree with the FCC’s proposal to amend the rules to require that WEA messages be saved until the message expires.

  • Before deploying the universal use of symbology in the WEA message, we echo CSRIC IV and V’s recommendation to conduct user-experience studies. However, we urge that the studies be inclusive of people with a variety of disabilities, whose primary language is non-English (spoken or signed), and people with varying levels of literacy. If the symbology is meant to improve message comprehension, the test participants need to reflect the users that stand to benefit the most.

  • We recommend that mobile phone manufacturers design WEA-capable handsets with the capability to adjust the strength of the vibration and sound and to include a light feature (Center for Advanced Communications Policy, 2015).[1] The vibration motors in current WEA-capable handsets may not be strong enough to alert users of WEA messages reliably, and thus manufacturers would need to design phone models with the goal of increasing the effectiveness of vibration and the other signaling features in mind.

The recommendations made in the comments are intended to maximizing message diffusion and ensure the same timely and effective access to alerts and warnings for people with disabilities. The full document can be accessed below.