Alberta cellphone users will help pay for 911 services
The province is bringing in legislation this spring to update the rules for 911 which will require cellphone users in Alberta to help pay for the service.
Currently, land-line customers pay 44 cents a month for 911 services and the government now wants cellphone customers to pay the exact same monthly fee.
Some cellphone companies used to charge a 911 fee, but the money never actually went to the emergency call centres.
Minister of Municipal Affairs Doug Griffiths says there are 2.7 million cellphones in the province and 911 operators estimate that 70 per cent of their calls are coming from cell phones.
Griffiths says extending the 44 cent fee to all phone users will bring in an additional $16 million a year, which is money that can be used to fund call centres to help them integrate technologies like text messaging and GPS. He also says the fee is comparable to other provinces.
"I think it's 60 some cents in Saskatchewan, I believe it's almost 80 cents in another jurisdiction — I wanted it to be exactly the same as land lines," Griffiths says.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi applauds the announcement.
"My best guess is that this 44 cents will pay for approximately 30 to 50 per cent of the cost of running the 911 centre, so it's not everything but it's not nothing," Nenshi said.
The province is also planning to bring in penalties for prank calls to 911, but at this point there are no details as to how exactly that will work.
Griffiths says a fine is possible but he also wants to look at a criminal charge as every prank call potentially affects the response to a real emergency.