Alberta cell customers may soon be charged extra 911 fee



CALGARY — Cellphone users in Alberta could soon see an increase on their bills to help fund 911 emergency call centres.

Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths announced plans to table legislation that will allow cellphone providers to charge an additional fee, which will offset the cost of 911 call centres around the province.

“While most of us have paid a 44-cent-per-month fee for 911 on landlines for many years — a fee that went directly to support 911 call centres — cellphone users have not paid a similar fee,” he said Thursday.

And with more and more people opting to use cell phones only, the funding pool has dried considerably, said Griffiths.

“To put this in perspective, 911 call centres, large and small, are reporting up to 70% of all the calls coming in are coming from cellphones as opposed to landlines,” he said.

Griffiths predicted the fee for cellphone users will likely be 44-cents-a-month as well, and with an estimated 2.7 million cellphones registered in Alberta, that would provide roughly $16-million annually for call centres.

Most cellphone providers already add a 911 fee to bills, said Griffiths, but that money doesn’t go toward funding call centres.

“Some have explained it was to build more cell towers and to enhance the 911 call system, but it never went to 911 call centres like landline fees do,” he said.

If passed, the new legislation — expected to be tabled during the spring sitting of the legislature — will also increase legal protection for call centres and penalties for those who abuse the service.

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