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Could a surtax be headed for your prepaid calling card?

One question which has plagued prepaid wireless recently is of what to do with 911. Not just the service — though we’ve heard a few instances where 911 didn’t work from a prepaid phone — but of how to pay the tax. Postpaid cellular users pay a monthly 911 fee to cover operational costs. So why don’t prepaid users? Because there’s no easy way to implement it. There is no monthly bill, so there’s no chance to add on the charge. Still, a solution might be on the way. Jeff Robertson of the 911 Industry Alliance says that point of sale charges may be the way to go. Of course, he’s facing significant opposition.

Mark Barfield, a VP at Radio Shack, has his doubts about the plan:

“There are tens of thousands of mom-and-pop stores that sell these things and many won’t comply. Small businesses will think that no one will catch them if they don’t charge the fee.”

That is certainly a concern. So while Robertson says that a “point-of-sale model is the best way to go,” it might not be true. If there’s no way to enforce it, after all, what good will it do?

Perhaps one way to accomplish this is to force carriers to charge users a fee every 30 days, right from their account balance. Some people have odd prepaid phone usage behaviors, so carriers couldn’t charge it on the same date every month. Instead, they’d have to charge it for every 30 active days of use. That would require a new system, though, which could render the idea moot.

Will they go with a POS system? It looks like this is the case. If you’re going to be charged for 911 services, would you rather it be done when you buy top-up cards (presumably this would work with Internet sales as well)? Or would you rather it be deducted from your account balance?