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States and Localities Must be Good Stewards of Wireless Consumers’ Support for 911

As April is “911 Education Month,” it’s a good time to think about how the wireless industry and its consumers support our nation’s 911 communication system. Americans use wireless to contact 911 services more than 400,000 times per day to save lives, stop crimes and help others in emergencies. But the numbers don’t tell the full story. Check out some true accounts about every day citizens who used wireless to act in an extraordinary circumstance.

The 911 system is generally funded through state and local fees and surcharges paid by consumers on telecommunications services, including wireless. As wireless service providers continue to invest substantial resources in networks and equipment to support 911, wireless consumers pay more than $2 billion a year to support state and local 911 services, including operations and equipment upgrades for 911 emergency call centers. 911 funds make sure that our nation’s emergency call takers and first responders are properly equipped to handle wireless 911 calls and, increasingly, text messages.

Unfortunately, some states used those funds earmarked for 911 for non-911 purposes. As shown in the chart below, while the number of states that raid their 911 funds has recently declined, CTIA and its member companies believe that even one state that raids the 911 fund is too many. Adding to our concern, many states and localities don’t have safeguards in place, such as audits, to determine if funds are being properly spent. States and localities need to use 911 funds for their intended purpose: to ensure the public 911 call centers and public safety community have the resources needed to respond to 911 calls, including those from wireless devices.

Source: FCC Report to Congress on State Collection and Distribution of 911 and Enhanced 911 Fees and Charges, December 31, 2013. http://transition.fcc.gov/pshs/911/Net%20911/NET_911_Act_Report_to_Congress_123113.pdf

Source: FCC Report to Congress on State Collection and Distribution of 911 and Enhanced 911 Fees and Charges, December 31, 2013. http://transition.fcc.gov/pshs/911/Net%20911/NET_911_Act_Report_to_Congress_123113.pdf

CTIA and our member companies remain ardent supporters of the 911 system and are committed to working with Congress and state legislatures to stop states from misdirecting these critical funds. We owe it to our nation’s 911 and public safety professionals -- who are always there when we need them -- to make sure they have what they need to perform their jobs as safely, effectively and efficiently as possible.

What You Should Know about Text-to-911

April is “National 911 Education Month,” so it’s a good time to say thanks to first responders – and their families – who are tirelessly and selflessly dedicating themselves to saving protecting people and saving lives. It’s also important that we understand how to use 911 in an emergency, especially as wireless embarks upon a new chapter in wireless 911 services with text-to-911, which is carriers’ ability to send texts to 911 in emergencies.

By May 15, 2014, AT&T, Sprint, T‑Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless voluntarily committed to support text‑to‑911 services in areas where public safety answering points (PSAPs), which are the 911 call centers, ask to be able to receive text‑to‑911 messages. You may soon be able to send SMS text messages to 911 if you are one of these wireless providers’ customers and you send a text message to 911 in an area where the PSAP can receive the text message.

Whether text-to-911 is available for you now or later, here are a few tips on text-to-911 service:

  • Call if You Can, Text if You Can’t: Your local PSAP 911 operator may not be able to accept text messages. A voice, TTY or relay call continues to be the best way to reach 911. Voice calls to 911 provide the operator with the most information about the emergency situation.
  • You May Get a “Bounce-Back” Message: If text-to-911 isn’t available in your area, you’ll receive a “bounce back” message that tells you to call 911 instead. All wireless providers will send the “bounce back” message, even if the carrier isn’t supporting text-to-911 services.
  • Know Where You Are: 911 operators need to know where you are in order to send help. Text-to-911 services do not automatically provide your specific location to the 911 operators. So, make sure to include your location in the text message.

Even though there are a few areas that will soon have text-to-911 available, the ability to text and send photos and videos to 911 may increasingly be available throughout the United States as we move towards Next Generation 911. CTIA and its member companies have a strong record of enhancing public safety so that wireless consumers may reach 911 in their greatest time of need, and we will continue to do so.

If you want more information on text-to-911, please visit the FCC’s website.

Support the Internet Tax Freedom Act to Keep Internet Affordable

As part of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) Coalition, 29 bipartisan groups sent a letter to members of Congress asking them to support the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (H.R. 3086) and the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act (S. 1431). Those proposals are aimed at making permanent a moratorium on Internet access taxes, which is currently set to expire November 1st of this year.  The online tax moratorium was established 15 years ago and has been temporarily extended several times since then. The legislation now being considered would prevent Internet access from ever being taxed, and would help keep the Internet affordable and continue to shut out multiple and discriminatory taxes.

With the Internet accounting for almost five percent of all U.S. economic activity, it’s important to keep access tax-free. Such taxes would threaten Internet access for who can least afford it, curbing their ability to access educational and advancement resources or participate in the digital economy. In addition to increasing costs to consumers, failure to enact this legislation in time will stifle innovation and investment in the U.S.  The signatories of today’s letter to Congress represent an incredibly diverse group of interests, and their collective action shows how critical it is to keep such an invaluable tool affordable for all Americans.

Join these 29 groups by asking your federally elected officials to keep the Internet affordable by passing H.R. 3086 and S. 1431 now.

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Location-Accuracy: Finding Those in Need: April WOW Insider Interview

Americans make more than 400,000 wireless 911 calls every day, but wireless devices offer so much more to first responders than a phone call. CTIA Assistant Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Brian Josef discusses how wireless assists 911 operators, the current state of location services and the future of E911.

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Text-to-911: What is Your Emergency?: April WOW Policy Point

Over the past decade, texting has become an integral part of how we communicate with friends and family, but it also plays a vital role in emergencies, especially for those with disabilities. Learn about the development and adoption of text-to-911 service, and what it means for consumers.

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