Harold Feld, who is a top flight lawyer on all things telco, and is on one of the relevant advisory committees, notes that, “The Upcoming IPAWS “Presidential Level Alert” Test Is Not A Trump Thing — Really.”
The nationwide alert that will be broadcast on September 20 has been planned for years:
There is a bunch of hysteria running rampant about the September 20, 2018 test of the “Presidential Level Alert” functionality of the Wireless Emergency Alert System (WEA), which is part of the Integrated Public Alert Warning System (IPAWS). (See FEMA Notice of Alert Here.) The thrust of the concerns is that Fearless Leader is creating a propaganda system that can blast through all cell phones and no one can opt out.
I ask everyone to please calm down. The fact that it is called a “Presidential Alert” has nothing to do with Trump. This all goes back to The Warning, Alert, Response Network Act (WARN Act) of 2006. That Act required that we integrate the old Emergency Alert System (EAS) which is on broadcast and cable with a newly created wireless emergency alert system (WEA) so that we could take advantage of the emerging communications technology (texting in 2006, but with an eye toward broadband) to warn people in advance of disasters.
This absolutely has nothing to do with Trump. The WARN Act mandates that while users may opt out of other alerts, they may not opt out of “Presidential Level Alerts.” This was decided way back in 2006, when Congress determined that people should not be able to opt out of anything so important that it triggers a nation-wide alert (although, annoyingly, they did give wireless carriers freedom to opt out of WEA entirely, which tells you a lot about the priorities of Congress back in 2006). See WARN Act Sec. 602 (b)(2)(E). This was not a choice by the Trump Administration. Nor can the current FCC allow people to opt out of “Presidential Level Alerts.” It’s in the WARN ACT of 2006.
So please, please stop spreading rumors about this. Please stop treating this as more evidence of Trump overreach with all kinds of possible sinister motives. The President can’t just press a button to send this out. And while a determined President with enough effort can abuse any system, this is not something Trump can just decide to do with his morning Tweets.
So, just chill out everyone.