FCC Sets Rules on Text-to-911 Service Requirements

Regulation Watch

FCC Sets Rules on Text-to-911 Service Requirements

In August the FCC (News - Alert) released an order regarding text-to-911 services. The order requires “covered text providers” to be capable of supporting text-to-911 by Dec. 31, 2014. They will then have until June 30, 2015, or six months from the date of a request by a public safety answering point, to implement such capability for 911 text messages to that particular PSAP.  “Covered text providers” include all CMRS providers, as well as all providers of “interconnected text messaging services” that enable consumers to send text messages to and receive text messages from all or substantially all text-capable U.S. telephone numbers, including through the use of applications downloaded or otherwise installed on mobile phones.

The rules require covered text providers to route messages using coarse location (cell ID and cell sector) or other means that allow the covered text provider to route a text to the appropriate PSAP. The FCC anticipates that many interconnected text providers will choose a CMRS network-based solution to deliver texts-to-911, at least as an interim measure. The FCC also found that it is reasonable for CMRS providers to receive commercially reasonable compensation for the delivery of 911 text messages. Accordingly, providers using the CMRS network-based delivery model must inform consumers that, absent an SMS plan with the consumer’s underlying CMRS provider, the covered text provider may be unable to deliver 911 text messages.

The text-to-911 rules are the latest in a long series of emergency access service requirements imposed by the FCC on new and emerging forms of communications and technologies over the past several years, and it is expected that the agency will continue to be active in this area in the coming months.

William B. Wilhelm (News - Alert) is a partner and Jeffrey R. Strenkowski is of counsel at the global law firm of Bingham McCutchen LLP

Edited by Maurice Nagle