FCC explores whether Apple's iMessage should comply with text-to-911 service

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is in discussions with the FCC over how the commission's text-to-911 rules might affect over-the-top messaging applications like Apple's iMessage, according to an FCC filing made on behalf of Apple. Apple wants the FCC to more carefully specify which OTT applications should be included in the agency's rules for text-to-911.

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Apple's iMessage service could fall under the FCC's text-to-911 rules.

The filing suggests that Apple's iMessage service may fall under the jurisdiction of the FCC's text-to-911 rules. The FCC said in a statement last week that it would consider steps to ensure that text-to-911 is made available as soon as possible by all wireless carriers as well as OTT messaging providers. The nation's Tier 1 carriers last week agreed to launch nationwide text-to-911 service by May 2014.

In the Apple filing, Paul Margie, a lawyer representing Apple, indicated that on Dec. 6 he met with Charles Mathias, special counsel to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski; Angela Giancarlo, the  chief of staff and senior legal advisor to Commissioner Robert McDowell; Louis Peraertz, the legal advisor to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn; and David Goldman, senior legal advisor to Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

Margie wrote that he told the FCC staff that "in addition to considering the important jurisdictional and technical questions concerning the application of any FCC text-to-911 rules to over-the-top texting mechanisms," the FCC should explicitly define what apps are covered for text-to-911. He said that the definition should include only software that "is installed on a device that determines the user's location using a technology that meets the enhanced 911 requirements set forth in" federal 911 regulations, and that "independently enables the user to send text-based messages to and receive text-based messages from any valid North American Numbering Plan telephone number via the short message service protocol."

It is unclear whether or when OTT messaging services like iMessage or Facebook Messenger will be included in the FCC's text-to-911 rules. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile USA agreed last week to the deployment of text-to-911 services, which various carriers have been testing in specific markets during the past several years. The carriers agreed to offer nationwide text-to-911 services by May 15, 2014, with "major deployments" starting next year.

For more:
- see this FCC filing

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