The United States Federal Communications Commission made a proposal on Wednesday for a set of guidelines regarding emergency text-to-911 messages, requiring both cellular carriers and internet based messaging providers such as Apple to support the initiative.
“Implementing text-to-911 will keep pace with how consumers communicate today and can provide a lifesaving alternative in situations where a person with a hearing or speech disability is unable to make a voice call, where voice networks are congested, or where a 911 voice call could endanger the caller,” the FCC said.
The body hopes to add messaging services, like Apple’s Messages app, to the existing voluntary commitment the nation’s four largest cellular carriers have all pledged to. The pact has the carriers all promising to activate text-to-911 capabilities by 2014.
The Commission is calling for “over the top” text messaging apps, (those that support sending texts to phone numbers), to allow transmission of emergency messages to 911 call centers. Apple’s Messages app is an example of such an app, as it is data-based and does not rely on any cellular network’s SMS abilities.
“By proposing to extend text-to-911 requirements to certain “over the top” applications […] the FCC’s proposal would ensure that as text messaging evolves, consumers will be able to reach 911 by the same texting methods they use every day,” the FCC said.
In November, a report was released that shows apps like Messages causing a decline in U.S. text messages for the first time in years.