FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has once again publicly called out Apple over not enabling FM radio chips in iPhones during recent natural disasters. Pai’s pointed statement follows the NAB renewing its own push for Apple to enable FM radio access on iPhones.
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Pai says other companies have enabled life-saving FM radio access in smartphones during hurricanes and other natural disasters when cellular service is lost:
“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. I applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones.”
While the FCC isn’t forcing Apple to do anything, the language in the chairman’s request doesn’t hold back.
“Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so. But I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. That’s why I am asking Apple to activate the FM chips that are in its iPhones. It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first.”
Chairman Pai’s statement comes on the same day as the NAB (via Bloomberg) similarly pushing for Apple to enable FM radio on iPhones:
“Broadcasters are providing information on how to evacuate quickly, where flood waters are raging, how to get out of harm’s way if there’s a tornado or a hurricane,” said Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters. “The notion that Apple or anyone else would block this type of information is something that we find fairly troubling.”
While Apple isn’t commenting on the renewed requests, critics speculate that Apple’s thinking may be FM radio access would hurt its services business which includes Apple Music and streaming radio services over cellular.
In practice, FM radio access would likely still require a traditional antenna (the discontinued iPod nano featured FM radio access using the headphones as the antenna) and wouldn’t be as simple as just turning on the function.
Chairman Pai has said in the past that he doesn’t believe the FCC has the authority to enforce Apple enable the FM radio function in iPhones, but his language today shows he’s certainly willing to apply public pressure on Apple.