Text-to-9-1-1 capabilities will arrive on the networks of the "Big 4" wireless carriers in 2014 under an historic agreement reached today between NENA - The 9-1-1 Association, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, and the Association for Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO). The agreement was submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is scheduled to discuss the issue and consider further action at its upcoming meeting on December 12.
The agreement does not mean that text-to-9-1-1 service will be available to all consumers by 2014; that will hinge on the deployment of hardware, software, and training at the more than 6,000 9-1-1 centers across America.
However, the agreement is expected to hasten the day when all Americans can call for emergency aid via text messages. Text-to-9-1-1 capabilities are especially sought by people in the hearing and speech disabilities communities.
"As the public becomes more mobile and embraces new methods for communicating, 9-1-1 has to be ready to answer non-voice requests for assistance," said NENA President Barbara Jaeger, ENP. "This historic agreement demonstrates the shared commitment of parties to serve the evolving needs of citizens in the digital age."
Under the agreement, the parties will work together and with all stakeholders from industry, government, public safety, and consumer groups to develop the technical standards and operational procedures that will ensure a seamless introduction of texting into 9-1-1 centers across America. Specific provisions include:
Text-to-9-1-1 service capabilities will be deployed throughout the carriers' wireless networks by May 15, 2014;
Bounce-back notifications will be sent to subscribers by June 30, 2013 when text-to-9-1-1 is unavailable in their area; and
Text-to-9-1-1 progress reports will be submitted quarterly by the carriers to NENA and APCO.
The agreement also includes a commitment by all parties to educate the public about how and when they can send texts to 9-1-1.
"It is critically important that the public be reminded that the best way to reach 9-1-1 is still via voice communications," added Jaeger.
Review the full text of the agreement at www.nena.org/voluntary-text-commitment.