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Posted at 10:09 AM ET, 11/23/2010

FCC considers texting, cell phone photos to 9-1-1

By Cecilia Kang

Cellphone users may be able to text 9-1-1 emergency services as the Federal Communications Commission explores ways to update public safety communications.

In a speech Tuesday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined reforms that would include the ability to text 9-1-1 as more Americans use cellphones as their main tool for communications. He said cell phone users will be able to snap a photo of a car leaving an armed robbery scene and send it to 9-1-1.

"If you find yourself in an emergency situation and want to send a text for help, you can pretty much text anyone except a 9-1-1 call center," Genachowski said at Arlington, Va.'s county emergency services center. "It’s time to bring 9-1-1 into the digital age."

Already 70 percent of 9-1-1 calls come from mobile phones, the agency said. Texting has proved to be an important form of communication, particularly for people with disabilities. And there are circumstances where a call could jeopardize someone's life and safety, the agency said. During the Virginia Tech campus shooting, students tried unsuccessfully to reach police by sending texts to 9-1-1.

Possible texting to 9-1-1 -- the emergency number was established in 1968 -- hasn't been introduced in an official policy proposal. The issue would first be open to public comments before going up for vote.

By Cecilia Kang  | November 23, 2010; 10:09 AM ET
Categories:  FCC  
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Comments

I had assumed one could already text 911- am surprised it has taken this long to be considered, let alone implemented!

Posted by: rodallsopp | November 23, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Governor Rick Perry in Texas cut the state 9-1-1 budgets 3.7% last year and again this year. Another round of 3% cuts has been issued with budget targets of 5%, 10%, and 15% reductions in the 9-1-1 budgets for 2012 & 2013 each.

And that was cut from fees collected off phone bills every month to pay for 9-1-1. That means they diverted 9-1-1 funds to pay down the state budge deficit.

New 9-1-1 capabilities can't be achieved while budgets are being cut and cut again. The next round of cuts means closing 9-1-1 call centers.

And that means more delays when you and family need police, fire fighters, or medical help the most.

The FCC can change policy, but without funds -- it's all just show.

Posted by: nomemoleste | November 24, 2010 7:43 AM | Report abuse

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