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911 Funding Affected by Lack of Landlines

We’re approaching almost 50 percent of Americans having completely ditched the landline phone to only use a cell phone. The reasons for that are many: keeping the same number even when moving from state to state, no long distance charges, always having your phone on you, fewer telemarketing calls. But one unforeseen byproduct of people cutting the home phone cord is that 911 services are losing their funding.

More from the Washington Times:

With landlines rapidly disappearing across Kentucky and the country, the old way of paying for 911 communications services has withered, too. That has left cities and counties struggling to maintain old systems and forced them to scramble to pay for upgrades or buy new systems.

“This is sort of a consequence of the structural changes the telecommunications market has gone through over the past 20 years,” said Trey Forgety, director of governmental affairs for the National Emergency Number Association.

The problem is especially bad in Kentucky, where local governments can charge fees on landlines for 911 services but are not allowed to tax cellphones. Fees from cellphones cover about 20 percent of the total cost to operate 911 systems in Kentucky, yet they account for 80 percent of all calls to 911 dispatch centers, according to Joe Barrows, executive director of the Commercial Mobile Radio Service Board, which collects cellphone fees in Kentucky.

Many state governments are collecting tax on cell phones, but because local governments cannot, sometimes that money does not make its way back to the local 911 infrastructure. More on this story as it develops at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.