FCC pressures Apple to activate FM chip in its iPhones

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After hurricanes battered Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, Apple is now facing pressure from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who is telling the Cupertino company to activate FM chips on iPhones.

The FM chip has been an unknown part of smartphones for some time, and Pai has made a point in recent years to push phone makers to activate those chips, saying they can provide life-saving help during a crisis.

Pai made his appeal in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which have wreaked havoc on communities across the U.S. and beyond in recent weeks. However, he noted that "Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so", and called on Apple to turn on the feature in its iPhones. "We urge Apple to acknowledge the public safety benefits of local broadcasting on SmartPhones and to light up the FM chip".

Apple didn't respond to Reuters' request for comments.

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"It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first", Pai said in a statement.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, also backed the effort asking Apple to activate the chips.

In August 2013, the radio industry, in cooperation with Sprint, introduced the NextRadio app, which allowed users to listen to FM radio either through the chip embedded in their phones or by streaming stations over the internet. However, Apple is the last holdout. "I don't believe the FCC has the power to issue a mandate like that, and more generally I believe it's best to sort this issue out in the marketplace". "In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in nearly all smartphones sold in the United States", he said.

"The marketplace is working and consumers are in the best position to choose the devices that meet their needs", said Scott Bergmann, the CTIA vice president for regulatory affairs, in a statement. And that may be enough to encourage the high-profile company to reverse course and activate the chips that already exist in its phones. "Because you just don't know what will happen".

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