Hawaii to blame for false alarm, FCC chief suggests

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Sunday suggested Hawaii’s government leaders are partly to blame for the false emergency alert broadcast and sent to mobile phones Saturday warning about a ballistic missile approaching.

“Based on the information we have collected so far, it appears that the government of Hawaii did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place to prevent the transmission of a false alert,” Pai said today in a statement.

The commission announced Saturday it would launch a full investigation, which the agency chairman today said “is well underway” while referring to “close contact” with federal and state officials. Pai spoke by phone with Sen. Brian Schatz, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee’s telecom panel, Saturday evening.

Schatz, of Hawaii, is “glad” FCC officials “are going to work with us on developing best practices on the communications side for states and municipalities to make sure never happens again,” he tweeted. “This system failed miserably and we need to start over.”

Pai called for close coordination of federal, state and local officials and said corrections to false alerts must be immediate. One line of inquiry “is looking at what additional safeguards are necessary,” tweeted Matthew Berry, Pai’s chief of staff.

“The false emergency alert sent yesterday in Hawaii was absolutely unacceptable,” Pai said. “It caused a wave of panic across the state — worsened by the 38-minute delay before a correction alert was issued. Moreover, false alerts undermine public confidence in the alerting system and thus reduce their effectiveness during real emergencies.”


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