(WTVM) - We are incredibly lucky that Hurricane Irma went through our area as just a weak imitation of the furious storm that crippled Florida.
But it proves we are only one very big severe storm away from not being able to receive life-saving emergency information.
If cell service or cell towers EVER go down, your cell phone won't do you any good.
But it could if the FCC would require cell phone makers to enable the FM Radio capability that's already sitting, unused, on your phone: whether it’s an Android or iPhone.
Tuning in a radio station on a smartphone is common in the developing world, so it's just easier for cell phone makers and carriers to de-activate that function for us, rather than have to install different modems for every different market.
During Tropical Storm Irma, iHeart Radio, partnering with WTVM, simulcast most of our breaking severe weather coverage.
If cell service had gone down and if the FM radio chip was activated on your phone, you would have still been able to hear our live severe weather alerts. But it wasn’t.
So, why don’t the cell phone companies just enable the radio chip? It all comes down to money.
Apple is the biggest holdout among the cell phone companies. It sees enabling the radio chip in smartphones as a financial threat.
It doesn’t want competition from radio stations to hurt its profitable Beats One and Apple Music streaming businesses.
We live stream, too and sure, we want you to stream our severe weather alerts on our news app. It’s the easier thing to do if you lose your TV signal.
But we think the public’s safety is so important, those radio chips should be activated, so that if cell service, live streaming, and the internet were not available, everyone could use their phone as an emergency radio.
We believe when life is at stake or was lost, as in Florida or Puerto Rico, it proves the need for the FCC to step in and REQUIRE activation of the FM Radio component of your smartphone.
It’s a function we all might need, some violently stormy day on some unknown date in the future.
General Manager Holly Steuart brings two editorials a week to WTVM. If you would like to respond to an editorial, e-mail your response to email@example.com or write to:
WTVM Editorial Committee
1909 Wynnton Road
Columbus, GA 31906