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Emergency alerts to be sent less widely to make them useful

FILE- This May 10, 2011, file photo shows a cell phone enabled to receive emergency notifications in New York. The Federal Communications Commission says carriers must transmit the emergency alerts on cellphones to more specific locations, rather than broadly. The more precise geo-targeting was approved Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, and will go into effect in November 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Regulators want to make emergency alerts on cellphones more useful by requiring wireless carriers to distribute them less widely.

The Federal Communications Commission says carriers must transmit the alerts to more specific locations, rather than broadly. That could help make alerts more relevant. The fear is that consumers will disregard alerts if they come too often or don't address an emergency in their immediate area.

These messages appear on phones like texts with a loud buzzing and noise. Except for messages from the president, phone users can choose to stop receiving them.

The more precise geo-targeting was approved Tuesday and will go into effect in November 2019. By May 2019, wireless providers also have to support alerts in Spanish and longer alerts — up to 360 characters, from 90.

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