FCC Announces Plan For Video And SMS 911

People in America may in future be able to summon the emergency services via video or text

People in the United States may in future be able to summon help from the emergency services via video or even SMS messages.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Julius Genachowski announced a five-step action plan at the 2011 Association of Public Safety Communications Officials conference in Philadelphia.

This plan will chart the transition to NG911 (Next Generation 911) services.

Broadband Future

Working with the public-safety community, carriers, manufacturers and other service providers, Genachowski said his goal is to ensure that effective emergency response is a critical element of the broadband environment.

Under the five-step action plan, the FCC will develop automatic location accuracy mechanisms for NG-911; facilitate the completion and implementation of NG911 technical standards for the hardware and software that carriers and PSAPs (public-safety answering points) use to communicate NG911 information; work with state 911 authorities, other Federal agencies, and other governing entities to provide technical expertise and develop a co-ordinated approach to NG911 governance; develop an NG911 funding model focused on the cost effectiveness of the NG911 network infrastructure linking PSAPs and carriers; and enable consumers to send text, photos and videos to PSAPs.

Next month, the FCC is expected to launch a rule-making process to consider how to accelerate NG911 adoption to help answer practical technical questions about how to enable text, photo and video transmission to 911, including how to ensure adequate broadband infrastructure to deliver the bandwidth PSAPs will need to provide NG911.

As part of the proceeding, the FCC will examine interim solutions for ensuring that carriers and service providers support text-to-911 transmission.

Modern Communications

“It’s hard to imagine that airlines can send text messages if your flight is delayed, but you can’t send a text message to 911 in an emergency. The unfortunate truth is that the capability of our emergency-response communications has not kept pace with commercial innovation – has not kept pace with what ordinary people now do every day with communications devices,” Genachowski said. “The shift to NG911 can’t be about if, but about when and how.”

The NG911 service supports seamless, end-to-end IP-based communication of emergency-related voice, text, data, photos, and video between the public and public safety answering points. NG911 systems will continue to support the legacy 911 system on a transitional basis for as long as is necessary, according to a statement released by the FCC.

The announcement builds on Genachowski’s enhanced public-safety agenda, including the launching of a PLAN (Personal Localised Alerting Network), strengthening the FCC’s existing enhanced E-911 location accuracy rules, laying the groundwork for a nationwide interoperable public-safety network and granting waivers to build out the public safety network.

“We’re on the other side of the tipping point. Almost everyone in or near an emergency situation now and in the future will have access to these new communications technologies. These technologies, and the fact of their widespread use, have the potential to revolutionise emergency response and save lives,” Genachowski said.