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Local Louisiana parishes might impose prepaid 911 fee

One topic we’ve seen a lot of in the past year or so has been the issue of 911 fees for prepaid cell users. In fact, just last week we discussed how e911 services aren’t totally effective yet. This week we open with a story about 911 fees, which aren’t assessed to prepaid users, but which there is a growing cry to impose. The Thibodaux Daily Comet has a story about how a few local parishes are looking to add a new fee for every purchase of a new prepaid wireless refill card.

The fee would be 85 cents, equivalent to what postpaid subscribers pay monthly for their e911 service. The rationale: more than half of all emergency calls last year came from cell phones, and half of those came from prepaid lines. That works out, given their 57,000 emergency calls, to over 18,000 calls made from prepaid phones. Yet they share none of the cost. So the issue is a reasonable one to raise.

Lafourche Parish Communications District Administrator Katie Zeringue explains why this is necessary:

“It’s going to continue to explode,” Zeringue said. “We don’t want to see that we have no funding mechanism and this prepaid totally takes over. … All we want is parity for them to pay the same as every other user is.”

Once again, reasonable. However, to charge this one a per-card basis, I think, is the hang-up. Some people top-up in smaller amounts every week or every other week, rather than once a month. This means that prepaid customers would be paying even more for service. For some users, this is a fee they might not be able to afford.

Yes, I agree something must be done about assessing prepaid cell users 911 fees, but there hasn’t been much of an acceptable proposal yet. Perhaps it’s time to get the carriers involved to determine how to best bill customers.