Ellen Perlman was a GOVERNING staff writer and technology columnist.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prepaid phones are a nice option for people who don't want a monthly wireless bill. But they're a scary prospect for the 911 emergency communications sector. People who buy "regular" wireless phones pay a monthly bill, and on that bill is a fee supporting state 911 emergency number systems.
Prepaid customers don't have monthly billing plans. So they are not paying 911 fees. The problem is growing, according to a story on urgentcomm.com. About 20 percent of mobile phone users prepay for their calls, and 80 percent of new wireless users in May bought prepaid phones, according to Patrick Halley, of the National Emergency Number Association, during a panel discussion at NENA's annual conference.
The public safety sector may be losing $200 million a year due to this situation, according to the 911 Industry Alliance.
There is a push to have retailers add a fee to the wireless phone cards people buy. But retailers don't think it's fair and many small stores won't comply, a Radio Shack vice president said.
State legislatures in Louisiana and Texas passed bills on prepaid wireless funding. (see here for text of the bills). Louisiana imposed a 60 cent surcharge on retail transactions and Texas placed a 2 percent fee on each transaction.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.