News Release Article from  Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

CRTC seeks comments regarding the participation of wireless service providers in the National Public Alerting System

March 29, 2016 – Gatineau – Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is inviting comments on the participation of wireless service providers in Canada’s National Public Alerting System.

Over 80% of Canadians own a mobile device and 66% own a smartphone. Given the broad ownership of wireless devices by the Canadian public, the wireless industry’s participation in the alerting system could further enhance its effectiveness in safeguarding and warning Canadians about potential emergencies and natural disasters. Mobile alerts could be an effective way to alert citizens in such a situation.

Wireless public alerting has already been successfully implemented in other jurisdictions, such as the United States and Australia. In the US, for example, emergency alerts are automatically sent to all mobile devices to warn the public about emergencies within the affected cellular tower coverage area. The alerts are designed to get attention with a vibration and unique sound, including the type and time of the alert, as well as any action that should be taken.

The CRTC would like to hear from Canadians on the possibility of implementing a similar system in Canada. Canadians may submit their comments by May 30, 2016 in one of the following ways:

  • filling out the online form
  • writing to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario K1A ON2, or
  • sending a fax to (819) 994-0218.

Emergency alerts are issued by emergency management officials such as fire marshals, police officers and public health personnel. Alerts could be issued, for example, to warn Canadians about tornadoes, forest fires, floods and water contamination.

The consultation launched today builds on the CRTC’s efforts to ensure Canadians are notified in a timely manner of emergency situations, as well as to ensure that the telecommunications system safeguards them.

Quick Facts

  • According to the 2015 Communications Monitoring Report, there are nearly 29 million wireless subscribers in Canada.
  • Unlike 911 services which allow Canadians to contact emergency services, wireless public alerting would allow emergency management officials to “push” messages to Canadians through their cellular services.
  • In 2015, a CRTC Interconnection Steering Committee developed specifications and network design, which are currently being tested, to deliver emergency alert messages to Canadians’ cellphones.
  • Defence Research and Development Canada Centre for Security Science, through the Canadian Safety and Security Program, is running a pilot project in the Toronto area to build, test and operate an effective wireless public alerting service.
  • In 2014, the CRTC required that broadcasters and television service providers begin relaying emergency alert messages to Canadians by March 31, 2015. Since then, most cable and satellite companies, radio stations, and over-the-air television stations, have issued emergency alert messages when required.
  • In 2014, the CRTC also began encouraging the use of digital media and mobile platforms to alert Canadians to imminent or unfolding dangers.
  • Public Safety Canada is the lead federal department responsible for emergency management and co-ordinates the development of policies for public alerting with federal, provincial and territorial stakeholders.

Quote

“We are pleased that the majority of Canadians are now receiving emergency alert messages due to the participation of the broadcasting industry in the National Public Alerting System. In the future, the participation of the wireless industry could make the alerting system even more effective and help save lives.”

Jean-Pierre Blais, CRTC Chairman and CEO

Related Links

Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2016-115
CRTC encouraged by the wireless industry’s progress on mobile public alerting
2015 Communications Monitoring Report
Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2014-444
Broadcasting Order 2009-340
How the CRTC Helps Protect Canadians

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