New State Law Adjusts 911 Surcharges

Local landline telephone subscribers will soon be seeing a reduction in 911 surcharges. The rate will increase for cell phone customers.
According to Bradley Mullinax, Director of the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District, the Tennessee General Assembly in April passed a bill (SB 2407/HB2255) that will take effect in January 1, 2015 to effectively lower the 911 surcharge for DeKalb County citizens. “Currently, residential customers pay $1.50 per month for 911 service. The rate for business lines is $3.00. The new law will reduce the residential and business surcharges to $1.16 per month. We are excited about this law since the results will actually increase funding for DeKalb County 911. Essentially, the Tennessee General Assembly’s actions have set the 911 surcharge at $1.16 across the board for all counties. As a result, there will be a larger pool of money to be distributed among the districts,” said Mullinax.
“Cell phone customers will see a small increase in charges. The current rate is $1.00 per cell phone and that charge will also be set at $1.16, an increase of only 16 cents per cell phone,” he added.
The 911 Funding Modernization and IP Transition Act of 2014 was adopted by the Tennessee General Assembly on April 25, 2014. The Act, effective January 1st, updates the existing model for funding 911 to account for changes in technology and consumer choice by establishing a single, uniform 911 surcharge rate.
The new uniform rate accounts for advancements in technology needed to provide Tennesseans with prompt and accurate 911 services and it is intended to adequately fund local 911 services in light of the ongoing reduction of landline use across the State. Accordingly, DeKalb County residential and business lines, currently charged at $1.50 and $3.00 respectively, will be adjusted to $1.16 per month. The cellular 911 surcharge will also be adjusted from $1.00 to $1.16 per month. Under the new law all communications providers will remit 911 fees to The Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, which in turn will remit 911 funds to local 911 Districts throughout the State in an amount no less than the 911 revenue received by each district during fiscal year 2012.
“Our highest priority is the public safety to the citizens of DeKalb County. 911 call takers and dispatchers remain dedicated to ensuring the quality of 911 service and response,” said Mullinax.
The Act also supports the state’s Next Generation 911 program. Next Generation 911 will provide better information and data to first responders, which allows local 911 operators to more quickly assess an emergency. As a result, the necessary equipment and personnel can promptly respond to the scene, according to Mullinax.
“The 911 Funding Modernization and IP Transition Act of 2014 will provide the resources necessary to ensure that the citizens of Tennessee receive the best 911 service available,” said Tennessee Emergency Communications Executive Director, Curtis Sutton. “It is extremely important that local governments understand that this new law flattens the local 911 revenue and that those 911 Districts who provide Direct Dispatching services will have to charge receiving agencies for dispatching services or discontinue those services. It’s also important to understand that 911 surcharge fees were never meant to fund the cost of dispatch operations,” said Sutton
Customers will likely notice a change reflecting the new rate on their January telephone and cellular phone bills.

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