More and more Iowans have cut the cord and gone to wireless phones which means less money from the E-9-1-1 surcharge for Iowa counties. Counties set the surcharged for land-line phones, while the state sets and collects the money from the cellphone surcharge. Barbara Vos is the E-9-1-1 program coordinator for the state and says the surcharge funds from cellphones are given out based on a formula.
She says they pay 65% of the money to the wireless carriers and telephone companies that are part of the networks that provide the service, and then they pay 25% of the funds to the local entities based on the number of calls the local public safety answering point has handled each quarter.
Vos says cellphone usage in Iowa has jumped more than 20% in the past three years. Linn County is considering a surcharged to increase the E-9-1-1 fees on land-lines to make up for the loss. Hamilton County supervisor David Young is also chairman of the county E-9-1-1 board, and says the loss of land-line revenue has not become a problem yet.
He says they have been close to the same revenue for the last couple of years, but they know it will be declining as the land-line usage drops. Young says the E-9-1-1 boards will face an even bigger challenge as technology advances. Young says the next real threat is voice-over I-P equipment where someone can call in from their computer into 9-1-1 dispatch.
He says that brings a whole other requirement for expensive equipment to handle those type of calls and he says Hamilton County is not ready for that yet. Counties can set a surcharge from 25 cents to one dollar per land-line for E-9-1-1 service.