Alta. Gov’t calls possible 911 fee on cell phones ‘necessary’
Published Wednesday, November 14, 2012 5:25PM MST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 14, 2012 6:54PM MST
The Minister of Municipal Affairs is looking into legislation that would add less than 50 cents to the monthly bill for cell phone users – to help pay for 911 services.
Minister Doug Griffiths the legislation he’s looking at would add 44 cents to monthly cell phone bills – the same charge is already on landlines, but since the number of landlines in Alberta has fallen, and the number of cell phones has increased, Griffiths said it’s needed.
“Who wouldn’t pay 44 cents to have 911 there when you need it?” Griffiths said.
Canadians already pay some of the highest costs for cell phones in the world, and some mobile companies already charge a monthly 911 fee, but that money doesn’t go to 911 call centres, it goes to enhancing their systems to make it easier to triangulate the positions of phones when they make calls.
The province said it’s up to those companies to explain to consumers why the money they’re already paying does not go to 911 call centres.
“They can say it’s for 911 services, but it’s quite frankly to support their whole network,” Griffiths said.
While cell phone users don’t pay additional fees for 911, it appears accidental calls to 911 from cell phones are tying up the phone lines.
It’s estimated one in 10 calls to 911 are made in error, and it can take 2 to 3 minutes to confirm there is no emergency in each of those cases.
The province is also looking at that issue.
“911 legislation that covers all of that, what to do in situations to reduce that fake, false call that ties up lines and distracts people, that’s what we’re in consultation with,” Griffiths said. “So it will be all-encompassing.”
The new legislation is expected in the spring of 2013.
With files from Kevin Armstrong