A woman reads a text message on her mobile phone.
A woman reads a text message on her mobile phone. - 
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Scott Jagow: Another technology development to tell you about this morning.
Here's Lisa Napoli.

Lisa Napoli: This is not a test of the emergency broadcast system. (Emergency warning sound from a radio). This is a story about how the government and major wireless companies are working on an emergency alert system to get the word out about things like weather disasters, or a gunman on the loose. With messages delivered to your cell phone. Wireless analyst Glenn Fleishmann says a Federal Communications Commission plan to create a text message alert system just makes sense in this digital age.

Glenn Fleishmann: If you can target people down to the granularity of this county, this state or this cell tower, this, you know, zip code, whatever, then you can give people incredibly timely useful information that can save lives.

Fleishmann says don't expect this to public service to be free.

Fleishmann:And then we know the carriers are gonna put a new line item on the bill that's called "text message national alert cost," and they're gonna tack 20 cents or 50 cents every month on the bill, even though it cost them nothing.

Don't worry about a new surcharge just yet. The new alert system won't be in place until the year 2010.

In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.