Georgia bill to upgrade 911 systems with cell phone tax

New 911 bill to bring money to local dispatch centers/ Victoria De Cardenas (WGXA)

ELLAVILLE, Ga. (WGXA) - Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed House Bill 751 into law last week to bring more funding to local 911 centers.

Emergency calls can be a life or death situation and technology is needed to pin-point the exact location of incoming calls. By keeping software up to date, 911 dispatchers will be able to sent out emergency crews faster.

That’s why the Georgia 12 Emergency Telephone Number 9-1-1 Service Act of 1977 was created.

This law allowed telecommunication companies to bill their landline customers at $1.50 every month. The money was distributed by the companies to local counties to fund their 911 centers.

But technology and the way we communicate has changed - and Georgia Representative Alan Powell understood the law needed to be upgraded.

“Originally, back 40 years ago, 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, the standard of telephone services was in hard lined service," Powell said. "They ran into every home. Those type of services have now been displaced by internet technology and internet phone service and cell phones and these types of things."

With technology changes in mind, Powell introduced the Georgia Emergency Communications Authority Act.

Under the plan, the monthly $1.50 fee will remain on your cell phone bill. In addition, a 911 fee will be added to any cellular enabled devices such as tablets and prepaid phone.

Under this law, fees on prepaid cell phones will increase from 75 cents to $1.50, and change from a bi-weekly bill to a monthly statement.

This will bring in money to dispatch centers like the one in Ellaville, according to Powell.

Middle Georgia houses the largest regional 911 center in the state, according to its interim regional director Jennifer English.

The Middle Flint Regional 911 Center serves eight counties: Sumter, Dooly, Macon, Schley, Webster, Marion, Taylor and Talbot.

English says this new law and generation of money will help fund equipment upgrades and prepare them for future technology changes.

“We always need updates. And you know, text to 911 is coming, so we’ve got to be ready for that,” English said. “Location is the most important thing. We are Phase 2 enabled, so we can locate you. But that can always improve.”

Local representatives like Patty Bentley of Butler said she understands the importance of bringing updates to emergency services to her district and fully supported this bill.

“We need to ensure we have good equipment in place to contact emergency management," she said. "To ensure that they can arrive on the scene very, very quickly to save a life. And that’s what it’s all about - saving a life.”

This new law will take effect on January 1, 2019.

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