Should cell phone users help pay for 9-1-1 service?

cell-phoneCell phone users in Missouri can call 9-1-1, but the burden of paying for that service is placed on people who still have landlines. Local emergency officials want to educate the public about that issue and about proposed changes in state legislation to add a monthly surcharge to cell phone bills to pay for 9-1-1 services.

According to the MidAmerica Regional Council (MARC), 70 percent of 9-1-1 emergency calls these days are placed from cell phones. Missouri, however, is the only state that does not levy any fee on cell phones to support emergency calls. Counties can levy fees on landlines, but MARC says if those tariffs don’t raise enough to cover the county’s share of the regional 9-1-1 system costs, so the counties have to make up the difference with general revenue or other funds.

That raises an issue of fairness about how 9-1-1 services are provided. As more and more younger people are opting to disconnect from landlines, some say the burden of supporting the system is going to retirees or those on fixed incomes.

In addition, counties in the Kansas City region share a 9-1-1 system operated by MARC, which provides the technology to routes calls to the appropriate dispatch center and a mapping system that displays the caller’s location.  The system’s $5 million annual budget also covers training, equipment upgrades and maintenance, MARC says.

“The equipment we use to receive, map and route 9-1-1 calls is state of the art today,” said Keith Faddis, MARC’s public safety communications director. “But technology is changing rapidly, and in the coming years we will need to invest in equipment upgrades to keep up with the region’s public safety communications needs. This bill will make it easier for counties on the Missouri side of the region to make those investments.”

9-1-1 Legislation

Getting 9-1-1 legislation passed has been a top priority for many in Kansas City. The Missouri House considered but did not pass a law in 2013. Rep. Jeanie Lauer of Blue Springs recently introduced House Bill 1573, which would give counties the option, with local voter approval, to add a small surcharge to monthly cell phone bills to pay for 9-1-1 services. The bill is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 15 representatives from across the state. Her measure would allow counties to add monthly fees of up to $1.50 on any device capable of contacting 9-1-1.


  • Those interested in learning more about HB 1573 are invited to attend an informational meeting on Monday, Feb. 10, at 10 a.m., at the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District Training Center, 4715 West U.S. 40 Highway, Blue Springs, MO.

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