WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Richard Burr (R-NC) said that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposal announced today will improve emergency response services that are critical to public safety and urged the Commission to continue to take steps to ensure these services keep pace with technology. Following an agreement announced last week between major wireless carriers and public safety leaders accelerating the availability of text-to-911 services, the FCC today announced it is seeking comments on expanding the agreement to smaller carriers and exploring options for more comprehensive emergency service resources to meet consumer needs. Klobuchar and Burr are co-chairs of the Senate Next Generation 9-1-1 Caucus.
“Citizens , first-responders, law enforcement officers and public safety leaders need to be able to communicate seamlessly during times of crisis,” said Klobuchar. “Smart, forward-thinking initiatives like text-to-911 services are critical to make sure emergency response resources continue to keep pace with advancing technologies to keep people safe.”
“Expanding the text-to-9-1-1 program is a common-sense development that will increase the ability of emergency responders to serve and protect citizens in their community and will give people in need of emergency services another way to contact 9-1-1,” said Burr.“In this ever increasing technological environment, we must make sure that our emergency services adapt to make use of the most up to date technological advancements so that services can be provided in the most efficient, effective manner possible.”
Last week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced a commitment by major U.S. wireless carriers – including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile – and public safety leaders to accelerate the availability of nationwide text-to-911 services. The voluntary agreement included implementing text-to-911 services for over 90% of the nation by May, 2014 as well as automatic “bounce-back” text messages notifying consumers if their attempt to contact emergency service is unsuccessful.
Today the FCC voted to propose rules that would potentially include smaller carriers in the agreement and explores options for expanding emergency service resources such as over-the-top (OTT) messaging like iMessage, SMS and Facebook messages.
The text-to-911 service would not replace voice calls to 911 services but would provide consumers with alternate access to emergency communications when voice calls could endanger the caller or a person with disabilities is unable to make a call.
Klobuchar has been a leader in interoperability initiatives in the Senate. Klobuchar was an early cosponsor of legislation that ultimately lead to the creation of FirstNet which provides for the planning, building and managing of a new interoperable nationwide broadband network that will vastly improve public safety communications.