The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has called on all mobile service providers to enable all their users to text to 911 at least by yearend. The communications regulator reiterated that access to 911 should remain as a core value that must be kept amid technology improvements.
Currently, text-to-911 is still not available in most texting platforms and most areas across the country. According to FCC, voice calling services to 911 is still the more preferred method among consumers but many of them still hope they could simply send text messages to 911 during emergency situations.
It can be recalled that the four major wireless carriers all agreed to commit in 2012 to make this service widely available by May 15, 2014. The agency also adopted rules that require all mobile service providers to send out bounce-back notifications particularly in those areas where 911 texts are still not available as of September 2013.
Service deployment update
Based on FCC’s latest list of text-to-911 deployment, Verizon has the most number of areas where the service is already deployed. Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint recently assured the public that they are still on track to widely roll out the service on or before the set deadline in May.
AT&T surely would not get left behind. In a short statement, the company said it would roll out its text-to-911 service on a nationwide basis by May. It added that it remains committed to help maintain the public’s ability to contact authorities during emergency situations to assure overall public safety.
Industry group’s stand
The Wireless Association or CTIA has its own stand on this issue. In a statement, the industry trade group said it appreciates the FCC’s current vision and goals for text-to-911 service. But it underlined the presence of significant challenges and complexities in the roll out or delivery of the service.
CTIA said those complexities may include equipping 911 centers to handle and respond to incoming text messages. According to reports, the FCC already reprimanded the Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) for dragging their feet on the deployment of the technology. The agency also called on those PSAPs to finally get with it.
The FCC wants to enable communicating to 911 through text messaging apps as well as communication services. Those may include iMessage, WhatsApp, and other popular apps we use today. The agency now requests public comment on the proposed year-end timeline for the provision of the text-to-911 service.