FCC chairman urges Apple to enable FM Radio on the iPhone

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The top US communications regulator urged Apple Inc (AAPL.O) on Thursday to activate FM radio chips in iPhones that would allow Americans access to life-saving information when a natural disaster takes out wireless networks, but the company said its newer models do not have the chips. To date, Apple is the only major manufacturer that hasn't unlocked the feature. An Apple spokesman did not immediately comment Thursday.

Apple shares are down 0.81%.

Earlier this year, the FCC voted 2-1 to reverse a 2016 decision that limits the number of television stations some broadcasters can buy.

While FCC action has been ruled out for the time being, it's undeniable that FM-radio waves are one of the most effective ways of distributing information to the public in an emergency. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have done damage in billions in their rampages through the Caribbean and the southern United States, affecting communications in most of the affected areas. Radio broadcasts are often the best way to get critical information to the public during a disaster.

"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", Wharton said. Pai said when wireless networks go down during a natural disaster, smartphones with activated FM chips can allow Americans to get access to life-saving information. In Apple phones, the chip is built on to the Qualcomm and Intel Wi-Fi and cellular chips in every single iPhone.

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While Pai has advocated for the enabling of the FM radio in the past, it has refrained from calling Apple out by name, despite the fact that Apple has been one of the main holdouts in implementing the feature. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and other members of Congress and the FCC have noted.

Citing safety issues, Pai urged the iPhone maker to activate the FM chip on its products. "I applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones".

Though some high-end phones still offer FM radio support, that is becoming increasingly uncommon.

"It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first", he continued.

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