“Wireless Emergency Alerts allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to accept and deliver warning messages to wireless networks from the president of the United States, the National Weather Service and state and local emergency operations centers. Sprint customers will be able to effectively and accurately receive warnings and safety information via text alerts to mobile phones that are equipped with the enabling software and based on their geographic location,” states the press release.
Although existing mobile handsets can only receive the messages if their users have opted-in to the scheme, all new models will be designed so as to force Americans to receive the messages whether they want to or not.
The federal government is keen to implement a centralized system of control over all communications, with the recent announcement that all new cell phones will be required to comply with the PLAN program (Personal Localized Alerting Network), which will broadcast emergency alert messages directly to Americans’ cell phones using a special chip embedded in the receiver. The system will be operational by the end of the year in New York and Washington, with the rest of the country set to follow in 2012.