The nation's four largest wireless carriers, joined by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), announced an agreement on a voluntary commitment to offer text-to-9-1-1 services. APCO International helped to ensure that the agreement will best meet the needs of the public safety community and other stakeholders. The four participating wireless service providers are AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon. Shortly after being filed, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski stated that this agreement will âaccelerate progressâ on text-to-9-1-1, following up on his earlier remarks before APCO in 2011 where he stressed the importance that Next Generation 9-1-1 services, including text-to-9-1-1, "be deployed to all Americans as quickly as possible."
This agreement paves the way for a national approach to enabling the public to reach 9-1-1 via text messages, which can be especially important for persons with disabilities and for any situations where a voice call cannot be made. "With this agreement, text-to-9-1-1 capability will be rolled out in an expeditious manner, consistent with Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) readiness and in accordance with industry standards," said APCO President Terry Hall. He continued, "We also support the industry's commitment to provide a bounce-back message where text-to-9-1-1 is unavailable."
As part of the agreement, the carriers pledge to work cooperatively with APCO, NENA and the FCC to educate the public on the availability and limitations of text-to-9-1-1, as well as to train PSAPs on text-to-9-1-1. The general public should still continue to make a voice call to 9-1-1 whenever possible.
Key points of the agreement include the following:
- Applies only to the text messaging services (referred to as âShort Messaging Serviceâ or âSMSâ texting) provided directly by the four national carriers. Text messaging applications provided by third parties (referred to as âover the topâ applications) are NOT covered by this agreement.
- The four carriers will make text-to-9-1-1 services available to PSAPs no later than May 15, 2014, at which point PSAPs may request text-to-9-1-1 services after becoming ready to receive texts.
- The service providers will implement a bounce-back (auto-reply) message by June 30, 2013 to alert subscribers to make a voice call to 9-1-1 when text-to-9-1-1 is not available.