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Government outlines plans for supporting 911 operators

The government plans to introduce new supports for 911 call centres so when Albertans dial 911, they continue to get the help they need in emergencies.

“Alberta’s 911 service is absolutely essential and our government is acting to ensure the system not only continues to be available in the coming years, but gets even better by adapting to the new realities of cellphones, texting and other innovations,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths.

The changes will address a number of challenges facing Alberta’s 911 call centres by:

  • creating the ability for the government to introduce, in collaboration with 911 service providers, province-wide standards for 911 processes and procedures;
  • giving 911 call centres more legal protection;
  • supporting 911 call centres’ efforts to integrate “next generation” 911 technology like GPS and texting;
  • introducing penalties for prank 911 calls;
  • ensuring equity among phone users in contributing to the cost of 911 service.

There are an estimated 2.7 million cellphone subscriptions in Alberta, and many 911 operators across Alberta say cellphones can account for up to 70 per cent of all calls they receive. Unlike landline users, cellphone users do not directly contribute to the cost of 911 services.

“This is great news for Public Safety Answering Points in the Province,” said Chris Kearns, manager, Public Safety Communications Centre, City of Lethbridge, and chair of the Alberta E911 Advisory Association. “911 centres have experienced dramatic increases in calls from cellphones, and new technologies also create issues. This makes it difficult to keep up and remain current. We welcome the Provincial support.”

“There is no doubt that wireless technology plays a crucial role in keeping Canadians safe,” said Bernard Lord, president and CEO of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). “The industry’s continuing partnerships with the Government of Alberta and the public safety community will help ensure the 911 system remains a vital lifeline for Albertans.”

Visit www.aema.alberta.ca for more information.

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Backgrounder

January 17, 2013

Questions and Answers

Is this a new fee being introduced?
All Albertans have been paying a 911 fee on their landlines for many years. The changes being planned will ensure all phone users (both landline and cell phone users) contribute to Alberta’s 911 call centres. Most other provinces have introduced or are looking at introducing similar changes.

The fee will be introduced as part of legislation this spring and will come into effect later in 2013. It will be a monthly fee, not a per-call charge. No one will have to pay for making a 911 call when they need help.

The funding will go directly towards 911 call centres and administration of the fee; it will not be used for unrelated initiatives.
 
How much will the fee be?
The proposed fee will be 44 cents, the same fee that landline users pay.

What will the fee be used for?
Funding from the proposed fee will be reinvested directly into 911 call centres so they can adopt province-wide standards, introduce new technology, and continue giving Albertans the service they rely on.

Some cell phone users already pay a 911 fee, so why will they have to pay this one?
The existing 911 fee on some cell phone bills do not go to 911 call centres.

Cell phone companies use this fee to fund infrastructure and administration costs related to connecting their users to Alberta’s 911 service.

It is implemented by individual telecommunication companies, and the Government of Alberta has no authority over this fee nor does the GoA receive any revenue from it.

How will the proposed fee be managed?
All wireless companies will charge the fee and clearly identify it on customer phone bills. They will then send the revenue collected from the fee to the Government of Alberta, which will distribute it to 911 service providers across the province.

911 call centres will automatically receive a base amount every year. The remainder of the funds will be distributed to call centres based on size of population they serve.

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Media inquiries may be directed to:
Timothy Wilson
Communications
Municipal Affairs
587-989-0549 (cell) OR 780-427-8862
Timothy.wilson@gov.ab.ca

To call toll free within Alberta dial 310-0000.