By Matthew Brooks
The way it is right now, when the government wants to send a message through the radio or TV, the government does it. No questions asked.
The radio and TV stations have no choice. It’s an automated system.
Emergency messages like Amber Alerts or severe weather warnings are immediately broadcast. The messages override over whatever else you were watching or listening to.
The same government control could soon be coming to your internet.
An government message could momentarily block out Netflix shows and Spotify songs so the government can inform you of what might be going on.
The law would allow the president of the United States, or FEMA, to send out one or repeated messages.
Current law allows the government to send out emergency messages only once.
The bill is called the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act.
One of the bill’s sponsors, U.S. senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), says the law would ensure “more people receive emergency alerts by eliminating the option to opt out of receiving certain federal alerts, including missile alerts, on mobile phones.”
With messages being sent to anyone on the internet or who possesses a cell phone (so, everybody) there is a concern that many have.
What could go wrong?
What if the government sent out a message warning about a false emergency?
Yeah, that already happened in Hawai’i.
A mix-up at a station of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency was behind the false missile alert.
To sum up the report, effectively everyone at the station knew the agency was running a scheduled test of the emergency broadcast system except one guy.
And that guy told everyone in Hawai’i to duck and cover against an incoming missile. Oops.
It was a startling 8:03 a.m. wake-up call.
With this significant mistake under their belts, some thought the emergency system needed an upgrade.
Going beyond improving safeguards, the re-introduced bill calls for the government to take control of the internet in the same way it take control of the airwaves.