FCC Adopts Rules for Text-to-911 for All Messaging Apps
The FCC today formally adopted rules that will require all providers of messaging services to enable their apps with text-to-911 capabilities. Earlier this year the FCC said industry players outside the four major wireless network operators need to get on board. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless began accepting text-to-911 in select markets around the country in May. The FCC recognized, however, that not all consumers subscribe to the four major carriers, nor do all consumers make use of traditional SMS messaging services. The new rules apply to nearly all messaging apps and services, including over-the-top apps such as WhatsApp, as well as the remaining wireless network operators. The FCC wants apps and operators to enable text-to-911 by the end of the year. Some messaging services will be exempt, such as those that function within games or social networks. The FCC feels this is an essential service and keeps in step with how consumers prefer to communicate. The CTIA Wireless Association, which represents the wireless network operators, voiced displeasure with the new rules. "While the wireless industry remains committed to collaborating with public safety to make text-to-911 available in the near-term, we are disappointed that the FCC acted today to codify a voluntary agreement to deploy an interim technological solution across all wireless carriers and interconnected 'over the top' text providers. The chilling effect of the Commission's proposed enforcement role is particularly worrisome in situations where, as here, the voluntary agreement involves new services that face challenging obstacles to implementation." Earlier this week, AT&T also took issue with the FCC's plan in a post published to its public policy blog. According to AT&T, the FCC's plan is ill-conceived and presents new challenges to network operators.