FCC, Big 4 Carriers Announce Plans To Accelerate Text-To-911, Commit To Nationwide Rollout By 2014

In August of last year, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski introduced plans for a next-generation 911 service, which would support text, picture and video messaging in cases of emergencies.

The plan was expected to take 5 to 10 years, but today Genachowski has announced alongside major wireless carriers that the SMS portion of the plan will be accelerated.

The major carriers expect widespread deployments in 2013, with a bounce-back service being implemented nationwide by June of 2013, ensuring that users know when SMS emergency messages are not available in their area.

The message would also point the user to call 911. AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile have committed to full-scale availability of SMS emergency services by May 15, 2014.

Here’s the FCC Chairman’s official wording:

Access to 911 must catch up with how consumers communicate in the 21st century – and today, we are one step closer towards that vital goal. Last year I announced a comprehensive plan to accelerate the transition to Next Generation 911, including text-to-911, and the FCC has acted to advance this effort. I also called on the communications industry and public safety entities to work together to enable nationwide text-to-911 as quickly as possible, and I am pleased that the nation’s four largest wireless carriers and leading public safety organizations have responded with today’s commitment, which will save lives starting in 2013.
This is good progress, but our work is not done. Next week the FCC will consider further actions to advance text-to-911 for all consumers. We will also take additional steps in this area next year, including closely monitoring carriers’ compliance with the commitments they have made today and addressing other aspects of Next Generation 911 such as enabling transmission of photos and videos to 9-1-1 centers. We are also working to strengthen the resiliency and reliability of the existing 911 system, where significant deficiencies were revealed by this summer’s Derecho.
I would like to thank all those involved in developing today’s important agreement.

The report indicates that text-to-911 trials are already underway, and when completed the service will reach 90 percent of Americans.

Not only will this help millions of hearing and speech impaired citizens, but it will empower victims in dangerous situations to send life-saving text messages.

The FCC release makes no mention of video or picture service, but the commission has been making steady progress on both NG911 and the current E911 system. In fact, in October the FCC laid down new requirements for service providers regarding location accuracy for phone calls.