FCC commissioners today voted unanimously to approve a policy statement designed to help make text-to-911 capability available nationwide by the end of the year, but FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that public-safety answering points (PSAPs) need to ‘step up’ to make the text-to-911 vision a reality.

The FCC’s approval of the text-to-911 policy statement comes more than a year after the four nationwide wireless carriers—Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile—signed a voluntary agreement committing to support text-to-911 service by May 15 of this year, in areas where PSAPs can receive texts. In its policy statement, the FCC encouraged similar voluntary commitments from other wireless carriers and text providers.

But carrier support of text to 911 only can provide consumers with another emergency-communication option where PSAPs have changed their systems in a manner that allow them to receive text messages through the 911 system. Thus far, few PSAPs have made the technological transition.

That needs to change, Wheeler said.

“Since wireless carriers serving 90% of all the wireless subscribers in America pledged to do text to 911, the response from the PSAPs has been underwhelming—only a handful of PSAPs have put this capability in place,” Wheeler said during the FCC meeting, which was webcast. “As we begin this process, we call on the PSAPs to get with it.

“The industry has done its part; the FCC has done its part. Now, it’s time for the PSAPs to do their part … It’s time to step up.”

The FCC has no regulatory authority over PSAPs, but Wheeler said “we can monitor and report on the activities of the PSAPs.”

During a press conference after the meeting, Wheeler was asked whether the small number of PSAPs that support text to 911 was reflective of funding shortage that may be preventing them from investing in the technological changes needed to receive 911 text messages. Wheeler acknowledged that funding problems exist in the 911 arena, noting that some states continue to raid 911 funding revenue and use them for other purposes.

Support for text-to-911 functionality among consumers has been considerable, particularly in the hard-of-hearing community that has largely abandoned the legacy TTY service that is integrated with 911 in favor of texting services that are available via computer and mobile devices.