Lawmakers want to add missile alerts to Netflix, Spotify

US Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii


Chip Somodevilla/Techhnews

We interrupt your binge-watching to bring you the following important message…

If a new bipartisan bill makes its way through Congress and into law, you may soon get emergency alerts from government agencies on Netflix and Spotify.

On Wednesday, Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, and Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, introduced a bill that calls on government to explore broadcasting disaster and other alerts via streaming-media services.

The proposed legislation — called the READI Act (the acronym stands for Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement) — is also designed to bring alerts to more people on their smartphones, TVs and radios. And it looks to improve how states deal with alerts and to provide for proper inquiries when warnings go wrong.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Schatz is a co-author of the bill. In January, a Hawaii state employee misheard a recorded message as part of an unscheduled drill and broadcast a false alarm about a nuclear attack. The warning, sent during a period of concern over North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, told residents of the islands to immediately seek cover because of an incoming ballistic missile.

“Even though it was a false alarm, the missile alert exposed real flaws in the way people receive emergency alerts,” Schatz said in a press release about the proposed legislation. Some people didn’t receive the warning, Schatz said, which obviously would’ve been a serious problem had the alert been the real thing. “Our bill fixes a number of important problems with the system responsible for delivering emergency alerts.”

In the same release Thune said, “Emergency alerts save lives, but management mistakes can erode their credibility and effectiveness. The READI Act implements lessons learned from past incidents and recognizes that emergency protocols must change along with communication technology.”

Netflix, Spotify and the Federal Communications Commission didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The FCC monitors the systems that are used to distribute the alerts.

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