CRTC Renews Alert Ready System, Skips Public Input

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Pelmorex, the private company behind Canada’s weather and disaster alert system known as Alert Ready, has been granted a three-year broadcasting license renewal by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

This decision was made without public consultation, despite recent criticisms of the system’s performance during extreme weather events. Oakville-based Pelmorex also runs The Weather Network and MétéoMédia.

The renewal comes on the heels of numerous complaints this summer about the system’s delayed or missed alerts during critical situations. Some of these alerts were crucial for communities facing devastating consequences from natural disasters, reports the National Observer.

The CRTC’s decision to renew without public input was attributed to the need for policy updates following Broadcasting Act amendments related to the new Online Streaming Act introduced in April. However, this move has raised eyebrows, especially given the increasing frequency of climate-related disasters in Canada.

The license for Pelmorex was slated to expire at the end of August, but was renewed for three more years. In 2018, the CRTC renewed the Pelmorex license for five years.

Recent incidents have highlighted the system’s shortcomings. In West Hants, Nova Scotia, a two-hour delay in sending out an emergency flood alert resulted in the tragic loss of four lives, including two children. Similarly, the system failed to provide timely warnings for a wildfire in Hammonds Plains in the province, leading to chaotic evacuation efforts.

The CRTC has stated that the decision to renew Pelmorex’s license administratively doesn’t mean concerns about the alert system will be ignored but will be addressed at a later date. However, experts have raised concerns about the implications of having such a vital alert system controlled by a private monopoly.

Comparatively, other countries like Australia and the United States have government-run alert systems. With Alert Ready, it’s not possible to disable wireless alerts, unless you put your phone into Airplane mode or turn it off.

The repeated renewal of Pelmorex’s license since 2009 indicates a lack of competition in the sector, prompting calls for a more rigorous license review process for the company due to the essential nature of its services. The future of public hearings on this matter remains uncertain and is at the discretion of the CRTC.

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