- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2017

Virtually every major-brand smartphone on the market is capable of picking up signals broadcast on the FM radio band, but only Apple locks its device’s FM chip such that users cannot listen to over-the-air radio on their phones.

But it’s about time that changes, according to the chairman of the federal agency that regulates the telecommunications industry, citing public-safety concerns.

“I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria,” FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement, Bloomberg News reported Thursday.

“When wireless networks go down during a natural disaster, smartphones with activated FM chips can allow Americans to get vital access to life-saving information,” said Mr. Pai in his statement, which did not hint at any potential federal regulation to require Apple to do so.

Mr. Pai went on to “applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones” and said it was time that Apple “step[ped] up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first.”

It’s a call to action that’s enjoying rare bipartisan support in Washington, with Florida’s senior senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, similarly urging Apple to change its policy, according to Bloomberg.

For its part, the National Association of Broadcasters, a trade group representing U.S. television and radio stations, hailed Mr. Pai’s request in a Thursday news release.

“NAB salutes FCC Chairman Pai for his strong support for voluntary activation of FM radio chips in Apple iPhones,” said Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO and a former Republican senator from Oregon.

“Local broadcasters are a lifeline information source in times of crisis, as Chairman Pai, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and other members of Congress and the FCC have noted. We urge Apple to acknowledge the public safety benefits of local broadcasting on SmartPhones and to light up the FM chip.”

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