Cell Phones Hurting 911 Funding - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Cell Phones Hurting 911 Funding

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by Mark Bellinger    

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- More and more people are swapping land lines for cell phones, but there are consequences.  The people leading the state's 911 systems said it's costing them money, and if something isn't done it could affect public safety.

Tennessee has one hundred 911 districts. You may not notice, but there are fees tacked on to your phone bill to pay for the service. 911 cell fees are smaller and 911 systems are feeling the pinch.

Wireless phone service is no longer the exception, but the rule. Ronie Green only uses a cell phone.

"I do not have a land line just because there's really no point in paying for a cell phone and a land line these days, said Green.

In Wilson County the switch over has been dramatic, and there's been an impact on the funding of the 9-1-1 service. Wilson County Emergency Communications Director J.R. Kelley said his system is fine, but there has been a noticeable difference in the reduction of land lines.
"Our numbers have reduced by a major carrier here in Wilson County by 50 percent in the last 5 years that amounts to a 5 thousand dollar a month reduction in revenue coming from that source," he said.
911 systems in Tennessee are allowed to charge up to a $1.50 for residential land line and $3.00 for a commercial land line.  The state collects just a $1 a month per cell phone.
State officials said it's a problem that needs to be addressed.  

"The land line, the land line funding is going down and we need to study it and it's a problem a national problem an issue everyone is going to have to deal with," said Tennessee Emergency Communications Executive Director Lynn Questell.

Kelley said several smaller 911 districts in Middle Tennessee are experiencing funding problems, and it will only get worse. There has been obvious stress on several of the state's 911 systems. State officials say there have been funding problems in Jackson, Hancock, Obion and Green counties. Kelley said if smaller 911 districts are forced to make cuts they may lose dispatchers. That means longer waits when you call for help and every second counts. 
"If you have a major incident and there aren't enough call takers there to receive those calls it could be a life and death situation when you deplete resources," said Kelly.
Tennessee's Emergency Communications Board meets in early February. There is a proposal study 911 systems and determine what is a reasonable amount of money to run the service. Then they'll make a recommendation to state lawmakers to see how to raise more money.

Email: mbellinger@newschannel5.com
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