The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has passed an order that will require wireless carriers to provide text-to-911 service by the end of the year.
The new order voted 3-2 in FCC would help the deaf, non speaking people and in emergencies where a person is choked. In 2012, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile USA had voluntarily agreed to add the text messaging service by May 2014 and they are progressing in setting up the service. However the lack of technology and call centers in certain areas remain a concern though the new order will encourage technological advancement.
Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman said in a statement:
“What we’ve learned in the ensuing months has reinforced why that philosophy is so important. For example, we know that text-to-911, where it is available, is a lifesaver. In Hamilton County, Ohio, a young woman was contemplating suicide, and a friend urged her to call for help. She didn’t want her parents to hear her on the phone, though, so she texted instead, and received counseling that may have saved her life.”
Republican Ajit Pai and Michael O’Reilly, member of the commission voted against the order as only 2 percent of 911 service can receive text messages. Most people also rely on WhatsApp for messaging instead of using SMS technology. Pai mentioned that making public believe that text messages can be sent from any part of the country can endanger their safety.
The order has been hailed by deaf and non-speaking people. Starting May 2014, carriers will be given six months in case of 911 query for messaging services. Carriers will also have to set up bounce back messages in areas where they have to call. Text-to-911 service is currently active in 100 call centers including states of Vermont and Maine.
Future plans of the FCC include adding the service to messaging apps like WhatsApp along with location information. A NextGen 911 project is also progressing where emergency services will include media and will use data and Wi-Fi.
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