FEMA

Presidential Alert Text SNAFU Has Cell Providers Scrambling

Earlier this week, we crossed an unprecedented digital threshold in our nation, and it didn’t go exactly as planned.

For many Americans, Wednesday, October 3rd will forever be remembered as the first time they received a “Presidential Alert” directly to their smartphones.  The test, which clearly stated in its message that it was only a test, was supposed to reach nearly every single American with a cellular device capable of receiving it, and resembled what many Americans are accustomed to in the Amber Alert system.

But not everything went according to plan.

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From the morning of the event:

Cell phone networks across the Pacific Northwest were hit by a mysterious disruption this morning minutes after the inaugural “presidential alert”  — although at least one cellphone provider insists the two events were not related.

For several hours Wednesday, subscribers with several networks, notably AT&T and T-Mobile, reported being unable to download data or use their apps soon after the text alert, which was sent at 11:18 a.m. Pacific Time.

“The presidential text alert went out and after that I lost all internet, Gmail, apps — everything stopped working,” said Sarah Mendivel, a medical researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital. When Mendivel finally got through to AT&T, she was told “they didn’t know what it was,” she said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

Soon after the outage, both T-Mobile and AT&T reported being aware of the outages but did not know why they had occurred or when service would be fully restored, according to online news accounts. But by 5:30, AT&T was reporting the problem had been addressed.

Others, such as yours truly, never received any notification whatsoever regarding the test.

This was the first nationwide attempt at sending the test signal, so some bugs were expected.

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