Arkansas May Increase 911 Cellphone Fees

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ROGERS, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas counties are pushing to increase the fee on cellphones to help fund 911 emergency response services.

Counties hope to at least double the fee to 65 cents per month, The AP reports.

Arkansas 911 centers receive more than 2.3 million calls a year, and 90 percent of them are made by cellphone, according to emergency experts. The current fee structure was created to be supported by charges to landline users and hasn’t covered costs for years.

“The system today is a legacy of the landline telephone system of the 1970s,” said Renee Hoover, administrator of the Arkansas Emergency Telephone Services Board. “We’ve made wireless phones fit into it as best we could.”

The increase is expected to generate $20 million a year, said Josh Curtis, the governmental affairs director of the Association of Arkansas Counties.

“This will be the county judges’ top priority in the next legislative session,” Curtis told lawmakers during committee hearings Thursday.

Counties will also seek to have one state board granted the authority to coordinate 911 call centers and consolidate some of the existing facilities, Curtis said.

County and city emergency responders can choose to operate their own 911 system or join others, which in some cases has created an unbalanced system. For example, Craighead County has one center than handles more than 70,000 a year, while three of Lonoke County’s six centers handle fewer than 3,000 calls a year, according to figures presented at the meeting.

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