Sonya Eskridge is a writer from Maryland, who started her news career in radio at the age of 17. After graduating from Virginia Tech, she went on to write for a national publication where she was able to mold her personal voice. Always looking for ways to inform on important issues--or share her love of nerdy and girly things—Sonya thoroughly enjoys writing about a wide range of subjects.
You may soon be able to have a new way to call for help thanks to the Federal Communications Commission.
The organization voted Friday to require all mobile service providers and messaging services (like iMessage and Google Hangouts) to make it possible for people to text 911.
Major carriers such as Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint activated this capability back in May, but the FCC requiring providers to enable 911 texts is one half of the equation. According to the National Journal it’s up to states and their counties to decide whether to be text-message compatible.
As it stands,122 counties in 18 states are ahead of the curve because their emergency call centers are already equipped to handle text-to-911 alerts. Among those are: New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Colorado, Iowa, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, and Virginia.
At face value this seems like a really wonderful idea. It provides a way for speech and hearing impaired people a way to get help, which might otherwise have been almost impossible. This is also a great option for people who need help during a home invasion when calling 911 could put victims in more danger.
On the other hand, the public will potentially abuse the functionality by flooding call centers will ridiculous alerts–like when people swamped 911 with calls about Facebook being down. Also, Pew Research finds that about 90 percent of people in the U.S. and most of that segment communicates via text. This could create an environment where call centers are so bogged down by 911 texts that they’re not able to help as many people.
If call centers can track the texts by GPS as people report incidents, the FCC ruling would rub right up against SketchFactor territory. Implications of this decision are largely speculations at this time as service providers have until the end of the year to become compliant.