In the wake of three major hurricanes that have wiped out communications for millions of people over the past month, Ajit Pai, the Chairman of Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has called on Apple to activate the FM radio chip on every iPhone in the name of public safety, Bloomberg is reporting.
“I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria,” Pai said in a statement. “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.”
In Congress, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is leading calls for mobile phone manufacturers to activate the FM radio chips embedded in nearly all smartphones.
While every iPhone includes an FM radio chip, Apple has chosen not to activate the feature, a move critics say could be putting lives in danger. Some critics believe that Apple doesn’t want to cannibalize its streaming service by giving iPhone owners access to free radio service over the airwaves.
Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters said that information on how to evacuate quickly, or where flood waters are raging, is being provided by broadcasters all the time. He continued “The notion that Apple or anyone else would block this type of information is something that we find fairly troubling.”
Below is Ajit Pai’s official statement calling on Apple to step up:
In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in almost all smartphones sold in the United States. And I’ve specifically pointed out the public safety benefits of doing so. In fact, in my first public speech after I became Chairman, I observed that ‘[y]ou could make a case for activating chips on public safety groundsalone.’ 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.
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. As the Sun Sentinel of South Florida put it, ‘Do the right thing, Mr. Cook. Flip the switch. Lives depend on it.'”
Apple has not yet issued any official response regarding the matter.
Update Sept. 28, 1:57PM PDT: Apple says iPhone 7, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus do not contain FM radio chips, so they can’t be enabled, in a statement to media outlets.