FCC Adopts New Requirements for Text–to–911 Bounce–Back Messages


The Federal Communications Commission recently adopted a rule requiring wireless carriers to send an automatic “bounce-back” text message to consumers who try to text 911 in locations where text-to-911 is not available.  According to the FCC, this requirement is intended to protect the public by substantially reducing the risk of a person sending a text message to 911 in an emergency and mistakenly believing that 911 authorities have received it, when it was not transmitted due to limitations in a carrier’s service offering.

Under the new rules, all wireless carriers providing “interconnected” text messaging services and providers of software applications that allow consumers to send and receive text message from text-capable U.S. telephone numbers must implement the 911 bounce-back capability no later than September 30, 2013.  The 911 bounce-back capability should provide consumers with an immediate response, sent via text, that text-to-911 is not supported by the application, if not available. This text message reply should also include instruction on how to contact emergency services through another method, either by making a voice call or through a telecommunications relay service.

Text message applications that only reach a defined set of users, primarily electronic games and social media applications will not be subject to the new E911 bounce-back requirement.  Further, the new FCC rule only addresses emergency bounce-back messages with regard to texting.  The FCC will address other text-to-911 implementation issues at a later date.

Clients who would like additional information about the new requirements may contact Jonathan Marashlian at jsm@commlawgroup.com.

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