On an average day, nearly 6,000 Americans call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) to seek help. That’s roughly one call every 15 seconds. In 2020, the Commission took a major step to make this service more accessible when we established 988 as the new number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, effective July 16, 2022. As we know from 911, creating an easy-to-remember 3-digit number makes it significantly easier for people to get help when they need it most. That’s important because young people, Veterans, the Black community, the LGBTQ+ community, and Americans with disabilities are disproportionately at-risk for suicide.
The Commission’s November open meeting will be headlined by a proposal to make it even easier for people to reach life-saving counseling. We will vote on a measure to create text-to-988 by the same effective date – July 16, 2022. The idea is simple. We want to make sure every American who needs mental health counseling can reach that help as easily as possible. To do that, we need to meet people where they are. Increasingly, that’s texting on their phones. Put simply, if texting is how you are most comfortable communicating with others, enabling text-to-988 will make it easier and more likely that you reach out for help in times of distress.
Text-to-988 has many clear benefits beyond added convenience. Considering the sensitive nature of mental health discussions, many people will likely prefer the anonymity of texting a crisis counselor rather than engaging in a phone conversation. Text messaging is also especially popular with some of the at-risk communities I referenced earlier.
Bottom line: text-to-988 is a common-sense solution that will save lives, and the Commission should adopt and implement this proposal as quickly as possible.
During the transition to 988, if you need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) or reach the Lifeline’s online chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/. Service Members, Veterans, and their families may reach the Veterans Crisis Line by calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1, by texting 838255, or by chat through the Veterans Crisis Line’s website, www.veteranscrisisline.net.
Text-to-988 is not all we have on the agenda for our November meeting. We will consider three additional items.
- We’re promoting wireless competition. In the wireless marketplace, more competition means more innovation, better services, and lower prices for consumers. Too often, wireless competition is stifled because spectrum access is concentrated among a limited number of licensees. To make more spectrum available to small carriers and Tribal Nations, the Commission will consider rules for an enhanced competition incentive program. This initiative would fulfill a statutory obligation to establish a program to allow licensees to partition, disaggregate, or lease spectrum.
- We’re proposing regulatory relief for FM radio broadcasters. When seeking a license, FM radio stations using directional antennas are required to provide physical measurements to verify their directional pattern. To do this, stations must either build a full-size mockup of the antenna or build a scale model. We will consider a proposal that would allow broadcasters to verify patterns using computer modeling rather than real-world testing. This will decrease regulatory costs and achieve regulatory parity between FM and other broadcasters.
- We’re facilitating new satellite services. The French satellite company Kineis has petitioned the Commission seeking to offer satellite services in the U.S. market. The Commission will vote on granting this petition. If approved, this satellite constellation will provide connectivity for Internet of Things devices, as well as enhancements to maritime domain awareness through monitoring of maritime communications.