911 managers say with landline use decreasing, funds

911 managers say with landline use decreasing, funds are drying up

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Across Oklahoma, 911 centers are losing a lot of money.

"We're losing $2000 a month revenue."

Rod Neal runs the 911 program in Ottawa County, in rural northeast Oklahoma. As landlines disappear, Neal says he can't afford to pay for technology

"It would be a shame to go back from the technology we have right now in our mapping that's all electronic to back to paper maps," Neal said. "This is what's going to have to happen. Support personnel are going to have to be cut."

Neal and a group of 911 managers came to the capitol to convince law makers to change the current law to allow them to bring in more money.

"It's going to help us survive."

Right now, counties can charge between 3 and 15 percent of a landline bill to pay for 911 services in each county. it adds up to tens of thousands of dollars to pay for 911.

But cell phone fees are capped at 50 cents a month, per bill. Six rural counties don't collect a wireless tax at all.

"Not as many people have those land line phones that had that fixed location," said Steve Willoughby. He's the E911 director for the Association of Central Governments.

Even for larger areas, like the Oklahoma City metro, problems persist. The Association of Central Governments oversees the 911 system for part of central Oklahoma. It says at least 75% of calls are wireless---which also severely limits the amount of information dispatchers get about who is calling and where the call is coming from.

"20 years ago when I was a dispatcher, we answered the 911 call, '911, what is your emergency?'. Today, most of our dispatchers are trained, '911, where is your emergency?"

As landline use keeps going down, managers like Neal say they're afraid what will happen if the issues aren't addressed fast.

"It's something that needs to be done now," Neal said.

A bill to allow counties to up the wireless fee failed in committee. Groups like Neal say they'll keep trying at the state level.

 

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