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Nationwide Wireless Providers Met Voluntary Text to 911 Commitment

I’m pleased to report that yesterday the four nationwide wireless providers met their voluntary commitment deadline to make text-to-911 capability available to public safety answering points (PSAPs) that request, and are capable of supporting, the service. This marked a milestone in the wireless industry’s ongoing effort to enhance public safety by helping consumers access 911 during emergencies. Once enabled by PSAPs, text-to-911 can offer direct access to 911 by text message for wireless subscribers of these carriers, including the deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech-impaired. Participating carriers also committed to working with the FCC and public safety agencies to educate consumers and first responders about these new capabilities and their limitations.

The development and availability of text-to-911 demonstrates the important role that voluntary industry efforts play in serving the needs of American wireless consumers. Working collaboratively with leading public safety organizations, these four wireless carriers crafted a commitment that serves the needs of wireless users within the parameters of available technology. This effort will result in a win for wireless consumers and public safety.

CTIA applauds its members for voluntarily undertaking this important initiative. As the wireless industry continues to work toward additional text-to-911 capability and Next Generation 911 deployment, CTIA encourages its stakeholder partners in the wireless and public safety ecosystems to continue these important collaborative efforts.

As PSAPs continue to roll out text-to-911 services, we want consumers to be aware of these important aspects of text-to-911:

  • Call if You Can, Text if You Can’t: Your local PSAP may not be able to accept text messages. A voice, TTY or relay call continues to be the preferred method to contact 911 in an emergency. Voice calls to 911 provide the PSAP 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 should receive a “bounce back” message to call 911 instead. All wireless providers should send the “bounce back” message, even if the carrier isn’t currently 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 provide your location to the 911 operators, so include your location in the text message.
  • Still a Text Message: Text-to-911 utilizes the same wireless architecture and technology as traditional text messaging known as SMS or short message service, so messages are limited in size, could be delayed, may be out of sequence or may not even be delivered or received.

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