FCC pushes for 911 texting

Posted by Mark Raby

In the future, reaching out for emergency help will be as easy as sending a text message.

At least that's what the Federal Communications Commission envisions. It's part of a project the group is calling Next Generation 911. In addition to sending standard text messages, the plan calls for technology that will allow 911 response centers to receive photo and video messages.

At a meeting yesterday, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski opined, "It’s hard to imagine that airlines can send text messages if your flight is delayed, but you can’t send a text message to 911 in an emergency," as quoted by Politico.

The new upgrades would also provide 911 centers with more accurate location-tracking mechanisms. As it stands now, when you dial 911 from a cell phone, the call is not even necessarily sent to the nearest call center, and whoever receives it cannot pinpoint your location.

In addition, some emerging telephone services cannot even connect to 911, or require a special, separate mechanism used only for emergency calls. If that mechanism fails, even if the phone still works perfectly otherwise, you may be unable to reach out for an ambulance or police support.

"The shift to NG911 can’t be about if, but about when and how," Genachowski affirmed.

The next step for Next Generation 911 (NG911) is a comprehensive set of rules and guidelines, which is expected to be complete next month. After that, the FCC will need to get necessary governmental approval and then the hard work will begin - physically replacing the equipment at call centers throughout the country.

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