FCC Pushes for 911 Text Messaging Capability; Tom Wheeler Comments

FCCSealChairman Tom Wheeler and the Federal Communications Commission have voted to implement an across-the-board emergency response text messaging service by the end of 2014, The Hill reported Friday.

Under the order, wireless companies and messaging applications will be required to enable users to send texts to 911, a move that is meant to bolster public safety and services to deaf people, Julian Hattem writes.

“This is about the expectation that our first responsibility is to provide for the safety of Americans,” Wheeler said regarding the 3-2 vote.

However, the report indicated that only 2 percent of emergency centers, and only in select states, have the capability to receive text messages, while some messaging apps do not use SMS technology and will not be able to send texts to 911.

“In your moment of need, if you try texting 911 in over 98 percent of the country you won’t reach emergency personnel no matter what application you use,” said Ajit Pai, an FCC commissioner.

Hattem reports that AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon already offer the capability to send texts to emergency responders as part of a 2012 voluntary agreement.

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