On November 18, 2021, the FCC adopted a Second Report and Order (“Order”) at its November Open Meeting that requires covered text providers to support Short Message Service (“SMS”) text messaging to 988 by routing covered 988 text messages to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (“Lifeline”) 10-digit central phone number by July 16, 2022.
The Order adopts the same definition of “covered text providers” as the text-to-911 rules, which includes all Commercial Mobile Radio Services providers and providers of interconnected text messaging services that enable consumers to send text messages to and receive text messages from all or substantially all text-capable U.S. telephone numbers, including through the use of applications installed on mobile phones. In addition, the Order adopts the Truth in Caller ID definition of “text message,” which includes both SMS and Multimedia Message Service (“MMS”) but excludes real-time two-way voice or video communications and messages sent over IP-enabled messaging services that are not SMS or MMS messages.
The Order does not yet require providers to support MMS and other text formats outside of SMS because the Lifeline cannot yet receive such formats. Instead, the Order adopts a process whereby the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau can require covered text providers to support transmitting messages to 988 in other text messaging formats that the Lifeline is capable of receiving. The Order also declines to impose a location information requirement at this time, based upon the Wireline Competition Bureau’s determination in the 988 Geolocation Report that there are important privacy and legal issues, it is technically complex, and could impose significant costs. Further, the Order declines to require providers to send an automatic bounce-back message to address where text-to-988 service is unavailable, finding that this will be an unlikely occurrence, the Lifeline is best equipped to handle these issues, and they want to minimize delays.
Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel and Commissioner Starks both released statements supporting the item.
On October 28, 2021, the FCC released a Draft Second Report and Order (“Draft Order”). No substantive changes were made from the Draft Order.
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