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Text-to-911 Services Starting in 2013

December 6, 2012—The four largest wireless carriers in the U.S.—AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile—have made the commitment to accelerate the deployment of text-to-911 services, starting with major deployments in 2013 and nationwide access available by May 15, 2014. The announcement was made by Julius Genachowski, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman, who also stated the FCC’s promise to work with all stakeholders and initiate any additional actions to ensure the accessibility of text-to-911 messaging is reached as soon as possible. Once fully implemented, approximately 90% of wireless customers, to include individuals with hearing or speech disabilities, will have the ability to send a text message to 911 to access emergency services and local 911 call centers. By June 13, 2012 the four carriers have also pledged to implement the “bounce back” capability, which will send an automatic text message response to those individuals that attempt to send a text-to-911 message in an area where the service is not yet available. The automatic response will instruct the individual to make a voice call to their emergency services.

The text-to-911 messaging is presented as a complement to voice calls to 911. FCC Chairman Genachowski noted that “access to 911 must catch up with how consumers communicate in the 21st century” and the commitment to accelerate access to text-to-911 from the nation’s four largest carriers “will save lives starting in 2013.”            

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The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies is sponsored by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under grant number 90RE5007-01-00. The opinions contained in this website are those of the Wireless RERC and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or NIDILRR.