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FCC beefs up emergency cellphone alerts

By on September 29, 2016

An Emergency Alert appears on a mobile phone concerning a suspicious package on West 27th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, early Sunday morning, Sept. 18, 2016, in New York. An explosion in a crowded Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan on Saturday night left more than two dozen people injured, and authorities called the blast an "intentional act," but said there was no terrorist connection. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also said a second site was being investigated. (AP / Maria Sanminiatelli)

An Emergency Alert appears on a mobile phone concerning a suspicious package early Sunday morning, Sept. 18, 2016, in New York. (AP / Maria Sanminiatelli)

NEW YORK— The federal government is beefing up emergency cellphone alerts like the one used in New York to advertise a search for a bombing suspect earlier in September.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a measure Thursday that will let messages be up to four times longer than the current 90-character limit. Cellphone companies will have to support Spanish messages under the new rules.

In addition, the adjustments allow officials to target messages more narrowly and include links in messages. The New York alert had an awkward phrasing, “See media for pic,” rather than a link to Ahmad Khan Rahami’s photo. The FCC also says it’s seeking comments on how to attach photos inside actual alerts themselves.

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