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Landlines and 911 - Funding Issues Across the United States

Updated on August 20, 2014


Funding for 911 across America is becoming more of a challenge each year as the loss of traditional landlines are fading at a rapid rate. What do I mean by traditional landlines? Traditional landlines are usually provided through your local Telco Company and not a VOIP or IP based phone service. There are some Telco companies slowing migrating to the use of VOIP or IP based solutions in order to become competitive and produce more earnings for their companies.

As technology progresses in the United States citizens are looking at ways of improving the quality of phone service through more innovative ways. However, with that said the truth is citizens are trying to save money as this newer technology is much cheaper and easier on a household budget.

How does this affect 911? The majority of communities across the United States collected and funded their 911 centers with a small surcharge on the monthly phone bill. Depending on what state you reside, some VOIP and IP companies do not collect the same amount of surcharges that were on your traditional landline bill.

The collection cost really takes a nose dive when it comes to cell phones vs. traditional landlines. For example in my county, traditional landline users pay a $ 2.50 flat monthly rate. However, when a home owner does away with their traditional landline and goes strictly with a cell phone the monthly surcharge is 70 cents. Now, in Kentucky that 70 cents is collected by the state 911 board in which after collection a percentage goes to a grant fund and they provide the 911 center around 40 cents of that 70 cents. In return for every traditional landline phone we lose to a cell phone we lose $2.10 per month funding.

We are blessed to be one of the areas where the VOIP and IP based phone service provider’s honor our $ 2.50 surcharge. Along with these issues it seems traditional landline companies are lobbying the state to allow them to do away with traditional landlines in rural areas that have the ability to connect to a VOIP, IP, or cell service. These companies are looking to save revenue in order to make them more competitive with the VIOP, IP, and cell phone companies.

It's no secret the majority of people that have landlines are elderly or people that keep it strictly for fax machine use and so on. Therefore, in many places across the country the elderly are providing the majority of the funding burden for 911.

In Kentucky we've seen several unique funding concepts to provide 911 with the proper funding such as removing the 911 fee from landlines and attaching it to water bills, parcel fees, occupied structure fees, and a few others. In one situation a community placed the 911 fee on their water bill and then sued themselves in order to get court rulings for the collecting practice to hold up in court if sued by citizens or companies. After winning the first ruling at the District Court level they sued again to have it reviewed by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

I hope people in the United States understand in order to keep 911 available it has to be properly funded. In order to meet the technology demands from the public and provide them with unique 911 access, proper funding is a must. Within the next 3-5 years citizens' will not only be able to call 911, they will be able to send 911 photos and videos. Texting to 911 is already taking shape across the United Stated. We will be able to text 911 in my county next year around April 2015.

So are traditional landlines going to be a thing of the past??? You be the judge.

Please support your local 911 service and their efforts to survive by supporting new funding initiatives.


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