Four of the largest US carriers — including AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile — agreed to create a nationwide service that would allow users to reach 911 via SMS. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said that the operators have signed on to the “text-to-911” program, which will see “major deployments” during next year before launching across the country by May 15th, 2014.
The announcement has been made as part of the FCC’s ongoing “Next Generation 9-1-1” initiative, launched back in 2010, that promised to “bring 911 into the Digital Age.” This in turn will make it easier for users to contact emergency services, while at the same time expanding the reach to people with hearing or speech disabilities.
Initially, the service will be available to more than 90% of all mobile users in the US, with those not being able to reach it receiving an automatic “bounce back” SMS.
Unsurprisingly, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is pleased with carriers agreeing to this scheme, hailing the news as a major step forward. He added: “Access to 911 must catch up with how consumers communicate in the 21st century… This is good progress, but our work is not done.”