Government Unveils Cell Phone Alert System

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The U.S. government will soon be connecting all cell phone users to an emergency alert system.

Under the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN), new cell phones will be equipped with a special microchip, allowing the federal government to send warnings from the president about imminent danger.

Local authorities will also use the system to inform citizens about life-threatening situations and Amber alerts.

"The motivation for this and other measures we're taking in the public safety area is the recognition that new communications technologies can provide extra benefits when it comes to emergency response, disaster recovery, and saving lives," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told PC Magazine.

PLAN will be launched this year in New York and Washington, D.C. The system will then spread across the rest of the U.S. as cell phone users replace old phones with new ones that contain the special chip.

"This is a really important step, though not the only step we have to take," Genachowski added. "We still have to get a mobile broadband safety network funded and built so that our police and first responders have broadband access wherever they go."

"We still have to upgrade the 911 alert system so responders can receive texts and videos alerts. We need to make sure our networks are resilient in times of crisis."

While cell phone users may opt out of alerts from local officials, no one will be allowed to opt out of messages from the president.
    
Congress approved the alert system in 2006.

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