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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.

2 Responses

  1. Kevin B Says

    The carriers have been involved and are fighting it tooth and nail. Each provider has dozens of lobbyists working on getting exemptions from E9-1-1 surcharges in every state. Their claim is that they are performing a “public service” by making cell phones affordable for the poor and elderly. Meanwhile, pre-paids account for a large percentage of calls to 9-1-1 which means others are left footing the bill. People with pre-paids are actually 80% more likely to call 9-1-1 than people with cellular contracts, landlines, or VoIP phones.

    And the overall amount going towards funding 9-1-1 is dwindling as a lot of people are getting rid of landlines completely. From 2007 to 2008, the percentage of wireless-only households went from 7.7% to 15.8% – a 105% increase. That growth is expected to continue exponentially. Pre-paids are the largest growing segment of cellular users. In some states cell phones and VoIP phones are also not tacked with a 9-1-1 surcharge.

    This means less money is going towards maintain an aging 9-1-1 infrastructure built in the 1970s – let alone make any improvements.

    If someone can’t afford to have a cell phone because 85 cents is too much for them to pay…then they will just have to go without. It is far more important for us to start paying attention to the overall safety and security of all our citizens.

    Posted on March 3rd, 2009 at 11:04 am
  2. Downtown Dave Says

    March 24,2009: I just had a Customer Service Rep(Rebecca) explain that ALL cellphone companies now charge a $1 Monthly 911 Admin Fee on their Prepaid(i.e.GoPhone) Cell Plans! NOT Verizon or VirginMobile as I Have BOTH! Why wasn’t/isn’t this in the Terms of Service agreement? Just talked to ATT Rep in PERSON(Pennsylvania) and they said: “NEVER Ever Heard of Such Fee”! P.S. NEVER Ever BELIEVE ATT Customer Service Reps On The PHONE.
    P.P.S. One Month-NO Charge! Explanation-Not Much Phone Usage! HUH!!! Makes NO Sense To ME or ATT Person(LIVE In PA)… WHAT GIVES with ATT Wireless GoPhone PrePaid?

    Posted on March 24th, 2009 at 8:30 pm

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