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By the end of this year, you may be able to text 911 from your phone to reach emergency personnel from any wireless phone or app with SMS messaging capabilities. Currently, this technology is limited to specific counties and areas across 16 states, with the exception of Vermont and Maine, where capability has been launched statewide.
For a full list of areas where text-to-911 is available, click here. “Bounce back” messages will be sent if users attempt to send a message where service is not available. This isn’t really specifically for prepaid or postpaid, and will eventually be available on all phones.
Earlier this year, the FCC asked all major carriers to support text-to-911 and the four communications giants voluntarily complied. Recently, the FCC formally announced that all messaging services and apps must have the ability to text 911. Social network and game messaging apps are exempt, but all services that have the ability to send SMS messages must comply.
The CITA Wireless Association (which represents wireless network operators) condemned the FCC’s new regulations in a statement, declaring that they wireless carriers had voluntarily implemented the service, but that it was costly and hard and basically they shouldn’t have had to do it:
“While the wireless industry remains committed to collaborating with public safety to make text-to-911 available in the near-term, we are disappointed that the FCC acted today to codify a voluntary agreement to deploy an interim technological solution across all wireless carriers and interconnected ‘over the top’ text providers. The chilling effect of the Commission’s proposed enforcement role is particularly worrisome in situations where, as here, the voluntary agreement involves new services that face challenging obstacles to implementation.”
The FCC, however, didn’t budge and simply argued that the service would be valuable and lifesaving in many situations where it would endanger the caller to have to speak or where the caller had hearing or speech impediments. This ruling will apply to all carriers and the MVNOs who sell their services.