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FILE--In this April 18, 2012, file photo, David Tucker, executive director of Vermont's Enhanced 911 Board, holds a smart phone in Montpelier, Vt. Tucker says the state is the first in the country where customers of the four major wireless carriers can send text messages to 911. As of Monday, May 19, 2014, T-Mobile customers in Vermont are now able to text 911. Verizon, AT&T and Sprint began the service earlier. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, file)
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — In a big step toward moving the nation's emergency dispatch system out of voice-only technology that dates to the 1960s, four major wireless phone companies are now providing text-to-911 services to local governments that want it.

Sprint, AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile began offering the service to local governments this month and it's being used in 16 states. The FCC has required all wireless providers to offer it by the end of the year.

The chief executive of the Virginia-based National Emergency Number Association calls it a big deal.

Brian Fontes says that it's important that the nation's 911 centers are equipped with technology to provide information to emergency responders.