Bill would hike monthly cell phone fee for 911 service


March 9th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Legislators in Iowa are considering a proposal that would increase the surcharge on cell phone bills to help cover the costs of emergency 9-1-1 calls. Iowans with a land line currently pay a one-dollar 9-1-1 surcharge every month, but the 9-1-1 surcharge on cell phones is only 65 cents. The bill would raise the cell phone surcharge to a buck a month. Craig Walter is a lobbyist for Verizon. “We do have some concerns, certainly, with the 35-cent increase to our customers,” Walter says. “It will impact, certainly, every phone that you have within your family for the additional costs.” Senator Tom Hancock, a Democrat from Epworth, says surcharge revenue to finance 9-1-1 operations continues to fall as more people drop their land lines.

“That leaves our local PSAPs — Public Safety Answering Points — with less funding,” Hancock says,”and there’s a lot of them out there struggling right now.” Officials say 70 percent of 9-1-1 calls now come from cell phones. Without additional fees from cell phone customers, emergency service providers say the cost of 9-1-1 upgrades will fall to property tax payers. A bill that would increase the 9-1-1 surcharge on cell phone users has cleared a three-member subcommittee and must next be considered by the Senate’s Ways and Means tax-writing Committee.

(O.Kay Henderson/Radio Iowa)