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More Cell Phones Changing 911 Funding

Updated: Wednesday, July 9 2014, 02:32 PM CDT
When you call 911, you expect help to arrive in the shortest amount of time. But a new trend may impact how first responders get to you in the event of an emergency.

According to the Center for Disease Control here in the Midwest, we're seeing the most people getting rid of landlines and replacing them with cell phones.

It might be more convenient, but the switch has an effect on 911 centers across the state who rely on fees from your land-line bill and cell phone bill to fund their operations.

In Sangamon County, they're not feeling the pinch because their surcharge is the same as the cell phone surcharge.

"For other counties I know it's been a problem because their surcharge for the land-line was high and then the wireless surcharge is set by the legislator at 75 cents, so you're losing money," said David Dodson, executive director, Sangamon County 911.

Logan County is one of those counties that's seeing its revenue shrink. The county's land-line surcharge was set at $1.95 in 2003.

"It's no where near where we need to do business, and we know that," said Dan Fulscher, director of Logan County 911.

And it's not just cell phones. Next generation technology would make 911 services available via Nook or iPad, and even through text messaging, all of which is going to cost extra money.

"We're hoping that next year, the state legislature, the senators and the representatives, as they take a look at the sunset law that they bring us closer to what we know it takes to do business in a small county," Fulscher said.

There is one reason to keep the land-line. 911 can trace the exact address of a call from a land-line, but it's more complicated with a call from a cell phone, making response times even longer, which can be deadly in an emergency.

"It's a few more steps, they do what we call a two phase trace," Dodson said. "They can get it to a pretty close proximity, within a few meters or feet."

So experts say it might be a good idea to keep the land-line, just in case of emergencies.

The disparity of funds for emergency call centers is greater in smaller communities. Officials say it's because fewer people means less money to fund 911 programs in those smaller towns.More Cell Phones Changing 911 Funding


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