CRTC Urges Wireless Carriers To Support 911 Text Messages For Hearing, Speech Impaired

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By Vijaykumar Meti | January 25, 2013 8:28 PM EST

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) has urged Canada's wireless carriers to make changes to their networks and systems to support 911 emergency text messages for hearing or speech-impaired persons by January 2014.

Canadians with hearing and speech impairments have to pre-register with their network provider and ensure they have a compatible mobile phone.

Hearing and speech impaired individuals will find interactions after making a 911 call pretty easy after registration. On calling 911, the emergency call center will automatically receive notification to initiate a conversation by text message.

"Services such as 911 are critical to the health and safety of all Canadians," Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC said. "This initiative is a perfect example of how technology can be used to improve access to 911 services for Canadians with disabilities. I would like to thank those who participated in last year's trial. Its success convinced us that expanding the initiative across the country is not only possible, but also in the public interest."

The CRTC's decision follows three months trial in 2012 to assess the possibility of rolling out such a feature on a national basis. The trial involved the participation of telecommunications companies, Canadians with hearing or speech impairments and 911 call centers in Vancouver, Toronto, Peel Region and Montreal.

Telus International, one of Canada's wireless network providers took part in the trial, which involved simulated emergencies.

Speaking on the service, Telus International Spokesman Shawn Hall said there is still a lot of technical work to do as the wireless industry and 911 operations centers work to implement the service community-by-community.

The new text messaging feature will only be available in those areas where the municipal and provincial governments have made the necessary changes to their 911 call centers.

The CRTC will examine the scope of Canadian 911 services in 2014-2015. To carry forward the survey, it has appointed National Commissioner Timothy Denton to conduct research on current 911 services and the issues related to the provision of such services on next-generation telecommunications networks. His recommendations will be taken into consideration when the CRTC begins its review.

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