Alberta Government to Introduce Penalties for Prank 911 Calls

by Istvan Fekete on January 18, 2013

The Alberta government is planning to ensure equity among phone users in contributing to the cost of the 911 service by charging mobile phone users 44 cents for 911 calls.

With landline owners being charged a monthly 911 service fee, but cellphone users being exempt, Calgary city council has been pushing wireless carriers to charge mobile phone users for the use of 911 call centers.

As statistics show, there are about 2.7 million mobile subscribers in Alberta, and the majority (70%) of 911 calls come from mobile phones. But locating mobile phone callers is not the only challenge for 911 calls centers – it’s the new phenomenon of the 911 prank calls that is causing headaches for these centers.

The main issue of the Alberta government is the cost of operating the 911 call centers, its plans to build more, to serve Canadians, and the shortfall in funding.

According to the city council’s data, the cost of operating the Calgary call centre is $29 million a year. The new fee could bring financial benefits for the 24 call centres throughout the province. Up until now, the call centres were partially funded in the budget request.

With the number of emergency calls increasing, finding resources for operating the call centers is one of the top priorities of the Alberta government, and with mobile phone users being exempt from any charges, they are the next target for generating income in order to cover costs.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Calgary aldermen have long been lobbying for Alberta to bring mobile carriers in line to pay their share of user fees, and the province’s latest announcement confirms their hard work is achieving the required results.

Nenshi says call centers get about 200 pocket dials per day, and obviously each one has to be followed up on, which pushes up the costs of 911.

Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and P.E.I already collect a 911 fee from mobile phone users, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association says.

Also, with charging additional fees for prank 911 calls, the city council hopes to cut down 911 costs. Meanwhile, they are advising mobile users to lock down their phones before they put them in their pockets. In addition, it would be great if mobile users would disable the 911 one-touch feature, because the additional half a second to call 911 by dialing two more numbers is outweighed by the costs of those pocket calls, Nenshi said.

Written by: Istvan Fekete. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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