All four nationwide wireless carriers — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA — yesterday committed to supporting text to 911 in their networks by May 15, 2014, with "major deployments" expected in 2013.

Each of the four carriers signed the agreement with the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) in a deal that was announced last night.

"Access to 911 must catch up with how consumers communicate in the 21st century — and today, we are one step closer towards that vital goal," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement. "I am pleased that the nation's four largest wireless carriers and leading public safety organizations have responded with today's commitment, which will save lives starting in 2013."

But the carrier commitment does not mean that text to 911 will become a reality nationwide by 2014. Although several text-to-911 trials are ongoing, most public-safety answering points (PSAPs) are not equipped to handle texts to their 911 systems today, and PSAPs are expected to enable this functionality at different times in the future.

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With this in mind, the carriers committed to providing an automatic-notification method — also known as "bounce back" — to a customer if a 911 texting is not an option from the customer's location at a given time. Under the agreement, the carriers agreed to enable this functionality by June 30, 2013.

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