FCC Asks Apple to Turn On iPhone FM Chips In Hurricane-Devastated Areas
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants Apple’s help with hurricane relief efforts in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
The tech giant should remotely activate the FM radio frequency chips in its customers’ iPhones so that they can get access to news through FM radio while damaged cellular towers are being repaired, FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement on Thursday. The chips have been turned off in iPhones for years, but in areas where cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity is down, they could be critical for getting information.
“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,” Chairman Pai said in a statement. However, he noted that “Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so,” and called on Apple to turn on the feature in its iPhones.
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The U.S. has been rocked by three massive hurricanes that have left millions of people without homes, electricity, and other critical infrastructure. Puerto Rico was hit especially hard.
Smartphones generally rely on cell towers, many of which have been destroyed or taken offline by the hurricanes. As an alternative, people could use their phones like portable radios to get access to information.
It’s unclear why Apple (AAPL), unlike many other companies, has not turned on the feature. The company did not immediately respond to a Fortune request for comment on the matter. However, Pai said the company needs to act swiftly.
“I am asking Apple to activate the FM chips that are in its iPhones,” Pai said. “It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first.”