City looks to province for 911 fee legislation
Published Monday, September 24, 2012 6:07PM MDT
Last Updated Monday, September 24, 2012 6:47PM MDT
Thanks to technology, one of the main sources of funding for the 911 emergency service is dwindling and city hall wants the province to step in before it's too late.
Many of us will never need to use it, but for those who do, 911 can be a life saver.
More and more people are using the service but fewer and fewer are paying for it and the city says the service is suffering,
“Landlines are shrinking, populations are growing and a lot more people have gone to just solely wireless communication, currently the City of Calgary and other jurisdictions in the province of Alberta are not getting that funding,” said Councillor John Mar.
Currently landline users pay a fee with their phone bill that goes towards 911 operations.
Many cell phone users also pay a fee but that goes to the cell company, not the emergency response system.
City council is asking the province to step in and wants the government to order cell phone companies to give the fees they charge for 911 service to 911 operators.
“We know that there's over a million calls to our 911 call center. We know that we need to make some upgrades to our 911 system,” said Mar.
Cell companies are not keen on the idea.
Telus says it no longer charges a specific 911 fee but that the fees customers do pay cover many critical services in areas without local 911 services.
“So if you're in the middle of the highway or out in the middle of nowhere and something happens and you call 911 with a Telus cell phone you will reach a Telus operator and that operator will contact the nearest local emergency responder for dispatch, whether its ambulance, or RCMP or fire,” said Chris Gerritsen from Telus.
Wireless companies also say keeping track of which cell users rely on which 911 service is nearly impossible which makes collecting and distributing the fee nearly impossible.
The province is looking at overhauling municipal laws and that includes creating new 911 legislation and the city wants that legislation to demand cell companies turn over those fees.
There are still some questions about how much authority the province has over wireless companies since most of the rules come from the CRTC and not the province.
Telus says it will work with the province on the issue but in the end, cell phone users could be on the hook for the fees.
The province says 60 percent of 911 calls in Alberta now come from cell phones.