U.S. Senate: READI Act 2019 re-introducted

U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-S.D.) reintroduced the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act today (October 24, 2019).

The READI Act would:
Explore establishing a system to offer emergency alerts to audio and video online streaming services, such as Netflix and Spotify;

The READI Act is support by NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Internet Association, CTIA – The Wireless Association, and the Wireless Infrastructure Association.

Due to its bi-partisan co-sponsors and industry support, this bill is likely to pass.

As I've stated before, I think network emergency alerts should be built into the underlying smart assistant layer (i.e. apple siri, amazon echo/fire, roku, google/nest home, etc.) instead of each content provider or internet provider.

Content provider is pretty ill defined -- everything is "content". But I'm not sure why it should reside in smart assistants either. What if I don't want or use any of them? They're awfully invasive. And it doesn't seem that you need them for amber alerts, and the new earthquake alerts here in california. What would be good imo is to define how alerts are sourced and distributed and put requirements on what devices need to implement it, but leave the actual UI a design decision. That's a pretty well tested route in the past cf, ietf and other standards bodies that don't touch UI with a ten foot pole.


Netflix on my Samsung TV already wakes up and ba-booms me after a few hours, even when it’s not the foreground app. At least this way there might be some value to shattering my nap on the couch.

Bill Herrin

I think I've been down this road before.

The international alert standards already exist. google.org/publicalerts aggregates alerts from dozens of countries around the world.

If you prefer, call it the mediation layer, i.e. the smart device's operating system. You really don't want each App on a device doing its thing. That was tried by the cellular industry in the early 2000s. The results weren't pretty.

On smartphones, the iOS or Android operating system mediates the emergency alerts for all the Apps running on the device. Whether you are using Netflix, or Hulu, or Audible, or Spotify, or some other random App; the user interface for alerts is handled by the mediation layer.

That way users's don't experience different emergency alert user interfaces for each App. If the user turns off Amber alerts at the device mediation layer (smart device operating system), its turned off for all the Apps.

Yes, its possible to download specialized Apps on your iOS or Android device to get extra alert information. There are a bunch of weather Apps which add weather radar and other stuff. But those Apps aren't really reliable for imminent emergency alerts, just read the App's Terms of Service :slight_smile:

So... The READI act, for example your Samsung TV mediation layer is called Bixby. Whether you are watching Hulu, or Netflix, or over-the-air TV station, Bixby would act as the mediation layer for emergency alerts on that Samsung TV no matter which App you are using.

Likewise, your smart speaker operating system (Amazon, Google, Apple, etc) would act as the mediation layer for all emergency alerts, no matter which smart app you were using, i.e. spotify, amazon music, audible books, podcasts, etc.

Ok, you had me completely puzzled by digital assistant layer. I'm not sure apps might not be interested in competing for users: "This 7.0 earthquake is brought to you by Allstate!"


I'll assume you intended a smiley emoticon.

Do not use interstitials, ad pre-rolls, captchas, etc during actual emergency alert information.

Since new people seem to propose it periodically, it turns out advertisers (and consumers) do not like their brands being associated with mass casualty events, child abductions and terrorism incidents. High-quality (i.e. high-revenue) marketeers demand buffers between their ads and sensitive topics to avoid being branded explotive. That's why you don't see airline advertising for days or sometimes weeks after a major airplane crash.

Radio and television have learned this lesson over decades. The Weather Channel is very good at keeping ads separate from actual alerts. Even algorithmic and auction-based on-line advertising and social media networks are mostly learning this lesson, usually the hard way.

After the immediate disaster, marketeers do use geo-targeting. But even then, the better advertising agencies change their messaging in disaster areas.


Finally, the FCC has been fining advertisers over $1 million for using official emergency alert tones and signals in ads to get people's attention.

The techies in silicon valley should learn from their marketeering
counter-parts on madison avenue -- keep your emergency alerts separate from your advertising.

Yes. My real issue is that I'm not sure I want the USG in the business of UI requirements, and I'm not sure that I want Apple and Google to be the sole arbiters either. Take for example Amber alerts: their ham fisted blasts that don't even take into account whether I'm in any position to help... like I'm sitting at home and not on the road. And then there's the issue of 8 dozen devices in the house faithfully blasting the same message. And then of course, there is the disaggregation problem of many different sources of altering using different alert distribution mechanisms. It would be nice to have some leeway such that somebody who might care about those problems has a chance at to be a player too. Yes, maybe that is an Allstate app that I can opt into. Maybe it's an open source project. Maybe it needs certification. There are a lot of possibilities here and although Apple and Google are at approximately the right layer in the stack, I don't think they're at the right layer of motivation: Allstate would definitely have more motivation, IMO.


Number of apps available in leading app stores 2019

Google Play: 2,470,000
Apple App Store: 1,800,000
Windows Store: 669,000
Amazon Appstore: 487,000

Likely hood all, a majority, a minority or even a tiny percentage of App developers will do the right thing? Close to zero. How many Apps are written in other countries, and don't follow requirements across borders.

Its not even a hypothetical, we know this from experience with cellular telephones in the early 2000s. The cellular industry and mobile device OEMs claimed for 10 years that they should NOT supply emergency alerts, because all the Apps would do that. The cell phone was "just the platform...."

Didn't happen. There were a few, very few apps, which implemented alerts; but default settings is a powerful thing. Almost none of the public installed or used them. Even when cell telephone companies isntalled alert apps by default, they failed to maintain them and often didn't work when needed.

Eventually, Congress passed the AWARN legislation requiring cell phone operators and manufacturers to implement emergency alerts. A subscriber can opt-out, but by default all cellular telephone OEMs and OSs must implement emergency alerts. A decade later, Netflix, Hulu, Spotify or whatever App you are using on your phone still rarely implement alerts. Wireless Emergency Alerts are nearly always triggered by the base cell phone operating system.

Amazon Alexa (echo operating system), Google Assistant (Google home/nest operating system), etc. are avoiding it much like the old cell phone OEMs in the mid-2000s.

But eventually I expect there will be a disaster, and lots of people won't get warnings, and will die. Cable TV operators fought implementing EBS/EAS through the 1980s. Cable TV didn't have EBS/EAS, and several hundred people died watching premium cable in the midwest and didn't get the tornado warnings being broadcast by the local TV stations. A few years later, Congress passed the law requiring Cable TV operators to implement EAS/EBS.

Much like seatbelts and car manufacturers, I expect tech firms to dodge as long as possible.

I appreciate your belief that somehow industry will do the right thing on its own. History isn't on your side.

I do not expect Apple, Amazon or Google to do something until forced too.

The semi-joke amoung the emergency management community, if tech firm CEOs lived in the mid-west (tornado alley) or south-east (hurricane coasts) instead of west-coast (silicon valley & seattle), all tech products would already support emergency alerts.

Somehow, I doubt if their recent experience with wildfires in the Bay Area will change any tech CEOs' opinions or amazon, google, apple smart product managers' project plans for supporting emergency alerts.

Samsung is likely the most advanced in this area, because the South Korean government has been 'encouraging' korean firms for several years to build emergency alert technology into their products.

Considering that most of the ritzy areas in the silly valley have no power right now, this may take on a new urgency. Of course none of this really matters if the network infrastructure isn't backed up. For all of the money sloshing around the valley, we have really shitty network infrastructure.


In other news, Generac has been doing land office business lately.



Sean Donelan wrote:

Somehow, I doubt if their recent experience with wildfires in the BayArea will change any tech CEOs' opinions or amazon, google, apple smartproduct managers' project plans for supporting emergency alerts.

There already exists earthquake alert system in CA.

            Masataka Ohta