AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile have agreed to accelerate the availability of text-to-911, a service to allow people to send text messages to 911, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) said.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the plan on Friday and expects major deployments in 2013 and a commitment to availability by May 15, 2014. This agreement will ensure that over 90 percent of the U.S. -based wireless consumers, including consumers with hearing or speech disabilities, will be able to access emergency services by sending a text message to 911, where local 911 call centers (known as a Public Safety Answering Points, or PSAPs) are also prepared to receive the texts.
"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," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said.
Text-to-911 will provide consumers with enhanced access to emergency communications in situations where a voice call could endanger the caller, or a person with disabilities is unable to make a voice call.
In addition, to help eliminate consumer confusion while text-to-911 capability is being phased-in, the carriers have committed to provide an automatic "bounce back" text message to notify consumers if their attempt to reach 911 via text message was unsuccessful because this service is not yet available in their area. Such a message would instruct the recipient to make a voice call to a 911 center. The four carriers will fully implement this "bounce back" capability across their networks by June 30, 2013, FCC said.