The Federal Communications Commission voted Tuesday to seek public comment on ways to enable the country’s 911 system to receive text messages, pictures and videos.
The 911 system only supports voice calls, but text and multimedia messaging has become commonplace.
During the open hearing, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski referenced the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, where students unsuccessfully tried sending texts to 911.
“In an emergency, consumers should be able to reach out for help with whatever means of communications they are accustomed to using,” Genachowski said.
The FCC estimated it would cost $2.68 billion over the next decade to establish a network.
Consolidating call centers and sharing call centers could cut that cost to $1.44 billion.
The FCC also agreed to seek comment on prioritizing 911 traffic after cell phone networks were congested during the East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene.