UBCM looking at 911 call answer levy

Organization seeks introduction of a province-wide call answer levy for 911 to deal with the increasing prevalence of cell phones.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities is calling for the introduction of a province-wide call answer levy for 911 to deal with the increasing prevalence of cell phones. At the moment, the emergency call service extracts a levy from landline telephones. The proposed levy would capture landlines and electronic devices such as cell phones and also VOIP services like Skype to support 911 services.

The UBCM secretariat sent a letter to municipalities across the province, and Cranbrook council looked over the release on Nov. 4.

Council was supportive of the report.

“There have been a number of resolutions that have come to the UBCM suggesting the province introduce legislation that would allow the implementation of a province-wide levy on wireless services to help pay for the delivery of 911,” Mayor Wayne Stetski explained. The UBCM committee was looking for comments back by Nov. 29. “If you have a landline, you currently pay towards this service. If you have a cellphone, you don’t.”

The service is also trying to cope with dropped calls. On a landline if the call is dropped, then the service can call the number back, but on a cellphone, that currently isn’t possible.

The City of Cranbrook is tied into the regional district’s 911 services, so any recommendations from council would be directed at the regional district.

Diana J. Scott asked if fire chief Wayne Price could provide comment in the next administrative report on the topic from a local perspective. Unfortunately Chief Price is away for the next few weeks so that wouldn’t be possible.

In the report, the steering committee put together by the UBCM recognizes that there are service gaps and technology changes in 911 services.

“These changes will require new revenue sources to meet public demand,” it reads. These revenue sources include using video, pictures, texting and other more recent wireless abilities.

Presently, wireless users don’t directly contribute to the provisions of 911 services in B.C. the way landline users do.

City staff noted that the process of creating such a levy would take time.

“But we will be providing input then to this,” Stetski said.

The steering committee is made up of local and provincial government representatives to look at the issues of implementing the call answer levy.

Council received the information as correspondence.