Spammer-in chief? 

Via CBS-NY comes the news of “a new national alert system… set to begin in New York City that will alert the public to emergencies via cell phones.” (hat tip: Alan Gura).

It’s all part of the PLAN, for Personalized Local Alerting Network. Remember the Emergency Alert System, with the annoying tone that periodically came across the radio when stations were testing it? This is the 21st-century version.

Cell phones with a special chip—which will soon include all new phones—will automatically receive Amber Alerts and presidential and local emergency texts. “A PLAN alert will be accompanied by a unique attention signal and vibration,” FEMA says. CBS-NY reports that “Consumers would be able to opt out of all but those presidential messages.” (Emphasis added).

So maybe if President Obama gets an internet kill-switch, he can keep us entertained during the blackout with inspirational text messages.

Or, if we're lucky, maybe we'll never hear from him. Jerry Brito writes:

Since the Emergency Alert System was created in 1963, it's never been activated, despite hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Oklahoma City bombing, and 9/11. Why?

The chairman of the FCC during the 9/11 attacks, Michael Powell, says that “The explosion of 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week media networks in some ways has proven to supplant those original conceptions of a senior leader's need to talk to the people.”

Given that it was Twitter, and (not) the President's address, that recently broke the killing of Osama Bin Laden, you have to wonder whether the new service will be just as swiftly supplanted.

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Gene Healy

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