[the hill] Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced a five-step plan to deploy the next generation of 911 services at a conference in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
The plan will allow emergency responders to receive text messages, voice calls, videos and photos from individuals while providing automatic location information to decrease response time. The commission is expected to launch a rulemaking on the issue at next month's open meeting.
“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 9-1-1 in an emergency," Genachowski said.
"The unfortunate truth is that the capability of our emergency response communications has not kept pace with commercial innovation — has not kept pace with what ordinary people now do every day with communications devices. The shift to NG911 can’t be about if, but about when and how.”
Genachowski promised last year that the next generation of 911 services would include the ability to accept text messages and videos, citing the inability of trapped students to text 911 during the Virginia Tech campus shootings in 2007. The FCC launched an inquiry on texting 911 at its December meeting.
The plan calls for developing location accuracy mechanisms so emergency dispatchers can quickly pinpoint the location of the caller. The commission will also work with states to create a governance framework for the next-generation 911 network, along with technical standards for hardware and software.
The commission will also work with Congress to develop a cost model and explore possible options to fund the next-generation network.
Congress is still deadlocked over the issue of a nationwide, interoperable public-safety network for first-responders, one of the key recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The stalemate appears unlikely to be resolved before the 10th anniversary of the attacks next month.
FCC announces plan to update 911 to receive texts, video