Genachowski to speak at 911 honors gala

Thank you to all of you here tonight who have preserved and dedicated your careers to emergency response, and congratulations to all of those being recognized for their heroic work.

Back when I was an EMT, the big change in technology was from rotary phones to push button.  The world has changed in so many dramatic ways since then. 

In 2005, the average cell phone subscriber sent around 1 or 2 texts a day. 

Today, it’s more like 20 texts a day, and the average teenager sends over 100 a day.  That tells us something about the direction this is going  


Five years ago, if I’d told people you can’t text 9-1-1 or send pictures to 9-1-1.  They would have said, so what?

Today, I tell people you can’t do these things, and they think I must be joking.  How could that be?

But that’s the sad truth.  There’s a gap between what ordinary people do with technology, and the capabilities of our emergency response network. That gap is unacceptable.  That gap cost lives.

Think about it.  Why do most parents finally relent and get their kids their first cell phones?  For safety.  How do kids primarily use those phones to communicate?  They text.  Yet, if your kid winds up in an emergency situation and texts 911 for help, that call for help will go unanswered. It makes no sense it all.  This has to change.

Now, make no mistake, 9-1-1 and our emergency response network are a remarkable success story.  You handle 650,000 calls a day.

You’ve done your best to take advantage of new technology, implementing enhanced 9-1-1, which allows the call centers to immediately identify the location of the caller.

But today’s 9-1-1 system still doesn’t support the communication tools of tomorrow.  No texts to 9-1-1.  No pictures.  No video. There’s no excuse.

We have to change.

We’re doing what we can at the FCC.

As recommended in the National Broadband Plan, we’ve initiated a proceeding to ensure that the public has access to broadband technologies to communicate with

9-1-1 dispatchers and to accelerate the deployment of next generation 9-1-1. 

We’ve issued an order to improve 9-1-1 by enhancing location-accuracy requirements for wireless service providers to be sure first responders can find those who call 9-1-1 from their mobile phones. 

And next month, I will ask my colleagues to consider at the Commission’s open meeting an item to help improve the reliability and resiliency of our emergency response infrastructure.