Cell Providers Must Bounce Back 911 Texts That Don’t Go Through

Text-to-911 service is coming for major wireless carriers in 2014.

It’s not universal text-to-911 capacity, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The Federal Communications Commission published a final rule on Friday requiring wireless phone providers to send automatic bounce back messages to people who send a text message to 911 in an area that doesn’t support the service.

The nation’s four largest wireless carriers have agreed to offer text-to-911 services by mid-2014. As that ability becomes more common across the United States, citizens will be more likely to presume it’s available, the FCC explained in a supporting document for Wednesday’s rule.

Automatic bounce back messages will let those people know when their emergency texts weren’t received and offer alternate ways to contact emergency services, the FCC said.

Texting emergency services can be more practical than calling when the texter doesn’t want to alert an intruder that she’s home, for example, or when background noise would make the caller difficult to hear.