UNITED STATES COMMUNICATIONS REGULATOR the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is backing a system that will make it possible for Americans to send emergency SMS messages.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has announced that the big US wireless carriers AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile are keen on the idea and have the support of public safety leaders.
The plan is that people will be able to send an emergency SMS message and receive either a positive or negative response. A positive response will lead to assistance, while a negative one will be a bounceback that tells them that SMS emergency services are not available in their area.
The carriers have committed to nationwide availability in 2014 and a partially available service by next year.
"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. Last year I announced a comprehensive plan to accelerate the transition to Next Generation 911, including text-to- 911, and the FCC has acted to advance this effort," said Genachowski.
"I also called on the communications industry and public safety entities to work together to enable nationwide text-to-911 as quickly as possible, and I am pleased that the nation's four largest wireless carriers and leading public safety organizations have responded with today's commitment, which will save lives starting in 2013."
The rollout will form part of the "next generation 911" services in the US, and will also see the FCC monitoring carriers for compliance and making sure they are following its lead.
"This is good progress, but our work is not done. Next week the FCC will consider further
actions to advance text-to-911 for all consumers. We will also take additional steps in this area next year, including closely monitoring carriers' compliance with the commitments they have made today and addressing other aspects of Next Generation 911 such as enabling transmission of photos and videos to 9-1-1 centers," he added.
"We are also working to strengthen the resiliency and reliability of the existing 911 system." µ