FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced that four of the largest wireless carriers including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile have agreed to step up Text-to-911 with major deployments expected in 2013 and nationwide availability by May 2014.
This will mean that over 90 percent of the nation’s wireless consumers, including millions of consumers with hearing or speech disabilities will be able to access emergency services by sending a text message to 911where local 911 call centers will be prepared to receive the texts.
Text-to-911 will enable consumers to have greater access to emergency communications in case a voice call could endanger the caller or if a person with disabilities is unable to make a voice call. Text-to-911 will complement but not be a substitute for voice calls to 911 services.
To help eliminate consumer confusion while Text-to-911 capability is being phased-in, the carriers are going to provide an automatic “bounce back” text message to notify consumers when their attempt to reach 911 via test message is unsuccessful. Such a message would instruct the recipient to make a voice call to a 911 center. The four carriers expect to fully implement the “bounce back” capability across their networks by June 30, 2013.
The FCC is continuing to work with all stakeholders, including 911 authorities, local 911 call centers, Emergency Access Advisory Committee, public safety organizations, disability organizations, consumer groups, and industry.
The FCC is going to take additional steps next year that will include closely monitoring carriers and their compliance but the FCC will also see that they address other aspects of Next Generation 911 such as the ability to transmit photos and videos to 911 centers.