FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the Text-to-911 program in 2010, citing the fact that students in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting tried texting police for help, but were unsuccessful -- and in 2013, that service will be launched in some areas of the country. Nationwide availability will be in place by May 15, 2014, the FCC announced.
This program is part of the FCC’s Next Generation 911 (NG911) services, which attempts to upgrade the rules and regulations of the landline era to the current mobile and IP world.
"Access to 911 must catch up with how consumers communicate in the 21st century -- and today, we are one step closer towards that vital goal," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a press release. “This is good progress, but our work is not done.”
The four major cell providers -- T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint -- made an agreement with the FCC that will allow users to send text messages to 911 emergency lines, and for users in areas where Text-to-911 is not yet available, a bounce-back service will be in place to notify users that they must call 911.
The FCC announced that it will continue working with the four major providers, which account for 90 percent of cell users in the country, and web-based text providers to ensure that the Text-to-911 service is as universally available as possible.