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FCC urges Apple to enable nonexistent FM radios in iPhones

The hurricane season has left a trail of destruction across wide parts of the U.S. and its territories this year. In Puerto Rico, most people are still without basic necessities like power or clean drinking water. To help with people’s access to information, the FCC yesterday pleaded with Apple to enable its FM chips in its iPhones so more people could access information broadcast over the radio on the island. In a statement, FCC chairman Ajit Pai said:

In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in almost all smartphones sold in the United States. And I’ve specifically pointed out the public safety benefits of doing so. In fact, in my first public speech after I became Chairman, I observed that ‘[y]ou could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone.’ 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. I applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones.

Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so. But I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. That’s why I am asking Apple to activate the FM chips that are in its iPhones. It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first. As the Sun Sentinel of South Florida put it, ‘Do the right thing, Mr. Cook. Flip the switch. Lives depend on it.

It is, without doubt, a passionate plea. The only problem is Apple’s latest iPhones (the 7 and 8 series) don’t contain any kind of FM chip anymore, reports TechCrunch. And even earlier models of iPhones that had Broadcom chips with FM support, the devices with those modules, the FM portion was not connected and the devices themselves lacked any kind of antenna hardware that would allow the FM chips to pick up radio signals.

In saying the same, here’s the statement Apple released:

Apple cares deeply about the safety of our users, especially during times of crisis and that’s why we have engineered modern safety solutions into our products. Users can dial emergency services and access Medical ID card information directly from the Lock Screen, and we enable government emergency notifications, ranging from Weather Advisories to AMBER alerts. iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products.

MG