FCC chairman urges Apple to enable FM Radio on the iPhone


FCC Chairman Ajit Pai renewed his call for Apple to activate support for FM radio in its iPhones, citing safety concerns in the wake of a rash of hurricanes. "You could make a case for activating [FM] chips on public safety grounds alone", Pai writes, which sounds an terrible lot like "turn on the FM radio or we'll make a rule forcing you to".

But Apple, in its own statement, said newer iPhone 7 and 8 models do not have FM chips "nor do they have antennas created to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products".

"The vast majority of the actions of Chairman Pai have served to eliminate competitive protections, threaten risky industry consolidation, make the internet less free and less open, and weaken critical consumer protections for those most vulnerable", Nelson said. It's cheap for the chip-makers to install, and consumers in other countries see FM radio as a staple of smartphones.

In the wake of three major hurricanes that have wiped out communications for millions of people over the past month, Pai issued a statement Thursday urging Apple, one of the largest makers of cellphones in the US, to "reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria".

"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", Pai said in a statement released by the FCC.

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Yet much of the imagery coming out of the destruction surrounding the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria emphasizes the severity of this need.

The National Association of Broadcasters says Apple' decision is denying those in danger access to critical information during and after storms, when more modern communication methods are damaged.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said that Pai's actions during his tenure as chairman have been "paving the way for a massive consolidation among radio and TV broadcast stations". Puerto Rico was hit especially hard. The reason you can't use it, however, is that manufacturers don't enable the chip to work.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants Apple's help with hurricane relief efforts in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. No mention was made of the FM chip controversy.