I never set out on a campaign. It found me. The days after 9/11 were dark for the country as we came to realize the enormity of our disaster and, perhaps more shocking, the actual lack of preparedness for such an urban calamity.
When the towers fell first responders could not communicate with commanders, or even among themselves. Having been engaged in point-to-multipoint wireless technology for about 15 years I was discouraged that the nation did not have an emergency communications standard that could have saved so many lives.
I’m no inventor, and it did not take one to know that FM RDS was the most reliable platform ever built for such a system.
To support that point, a 1996 Radio World article reported a CEMA survey saying that 48% of respondents would like to receive EBS alerts and song titling via RDS. That was 12 years ago. Until now they got just half a loaf.
Matthew Straeb and I are longtime members of the NRSC’s full committee and active with the RBDS technology. Our commitments to the FM RDS space are well known by everyone who knows us.
Over the past 20 years partners and I have invested more than $60 million in technology. Our newest service, ALERT FM, has been deployed for two years, now in South Florida and four other metro areas. Thanks to inspired cooperation from state and local Emergency Managers and Northrop Grumman, our aerospace partner, I am absolutely convinced that ALERT FM will be the long-needed standard.
We have received support from most broadcasters, though some others are still non-believers. Of course, I think they are misinformed. So, this is my campaign and responsibility; to convince everyone in broadcasting of the genuine opportunity such a partnership presents for the radio industry.
Our vision has been a longtime coming, and has a long way to go. But, we have opened several initiatives in diverse emergency and entertainment messaging, mobile communications; and a new category of Awareness-Driven Commerce (ADC) which presents station revenue-sharing RDS opportunities.
Of course, there is the mandated nationwide EAS. But, ALERT FM is way different. A private enterprise solution based on a state and local emergency management network, it is seamlessly integrated and fully addressable; uses switchless satellite communications; promotes and re-repositions FM RDS; supports broadcasters and the Radio brand; is HD-compatible and strives to expand FM by adding more receivers to the general population.
What do we charge broadcasters for this advanced 21st Century technology and emergency messaging content? Nothing; no start-up costs and no license fees; it is free. Also, ALERT FM is a true public service provided no charge
to the public by the station and GSS.
You see everyone’s investment underwrites the cost: Emergency Managers buying technology and providing emergency content; Broadcasters providing some bandwidth to continue their tradition of emergency alerting; The public and businesses who purchase devices (including cell phones if the NAB is successful) to receive emergency messages.
Who benefits? Broadcasters, yes. FM device listeners, yes. First Responders, yes. Communities, yes. GSS, yes, but to a lesser degree than has been implied, and only if we’re successful in marketing our ALERT FM receivers.
Sure, there are profits to be made from this system and not only by us. But, please remember, we are the ones that spent millions of dollars over five years to make it possible.
Government was not going to do it, so we took the risk and hope for the rewards. In fact, it is precisely the rewards for everyone that keeps us focused. It is why we try.
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