FCC Adopts Rules Requiring Mandatory Text-to-911 Expansion by 2014

August 11, 2014 in News

On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission adopted new rules that require all wireless telephone carriers and certain text message application providers that use cellular networks to support emergency text services by the end of this year, FCW reports.

Background

According to FCW, the text-to-911 service only operates with public safety answering points, or PSAPs, who elect to deploy the service. So far, all dispatchers in Maine and Vermont offer the service, with some others scattered around 16 additional states.

In total, only about 2% of the U.S. population has access to 911 texts (Mazmanian, FCW, 8/8).

Last year, FCC announced rules that required wireless carriers and text messaging providers to send automatic bounce-back test messages to users who try to text 911 for emergency services where text-to-911 services are unavailable (iHealthBeat, 5/21/13).

Details of New FCC Rules

Under the new FCC rules, all wireless and message application providers must comply with text-to-911 protocols. However, the rules give wireless providers six months to deploy text-to-911 to PSAPs that request it. Specifically, the rules apply to embedded text applications and carriers known as “over the top” services that use mobile networks to operate. The rules do not apply to messaging services in applications, such as Facebook or Twitter. In addition, the rules do not apply to messages sent through embedded messaging applications over Wi-Fi connections.

During its meeting last week, FCC also adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking to seek comments on the text-to-911 service’s future and other emergency service enhancements (FCW, 8/8).

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