GCI wireless subscribers may find themselves frustrated when it comes to getting wireless alerts on their cell phones. That's because, GCI, like many other smaller carriers in the Lower 48, are still trying to get up to speed with the technology required to send those alerts.

The wireless alert system is different than the emergency alert system. The emergency alert system is what you would see on your television when a major incident occurs. The wireless alert system sends alerts directly to your phone. GCI is currently developing and finalizing their program to be able to send those messages directly to customers' phones.

"GCI, because we are a small provider, we have been given an extended timeline by the Federal Communications Commission to implement this program," GCI Senior Director of Corporate Communications Heather Handyside said. "GCI is not unique in this. Small providers across the country have been given an extension to get this in place."

The process is quite complicated and the big four providers, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, already have this system in place. That's why some people get alerts and some people currently do not. Right now, it depends on which carrier you're using. 

"We are in the final months of developing a system and finalizing it," Handyside said. "Once we do have it up and running, our customers will be able to get wireless emergency alerts for Amber Alerts, emergency situations from FEMA and presidential alerts."

The system is expected to be in place by all small providers by the summer; GCI expects to be ready before then. In the interim, GCI put together an app for iOS and Android devices.

"If customers download our app," Handyside said, "they will be able to get the alerts that way for now."

With all the attention Hawaii has received, GCI wants to make sure the wireless alert system is in perfect working order.

"We don't want to send out any false alerts," Handyside said. "We don't want to alarm our customers into the opposite of what we are trying to do. We want to keep our customers informed if something is going on."

GCI will continue system testing in the lab and in the field to make sure the systems work. The FCC has given all small wireless providers across the country, not just GCI, until the end of summer to complete the tests. GCI feels they will be up and ready well before the FCC deadline.

It's a complicated process with a lot of data involved and coordination with other systems. An example being if someone lives in Alaska and are in Hawaii or another state in the Lower 48, GCI is working to get you notifications in the state you are visiting or living.

It's a huge interrelated system involving tracking people by their mobile number, their names and where they are on the planet.

GCI is KTVA's parent company.

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