See all those dark circles and more than a tiny bit dark circles? Those are all the states that are ahead of Ohio in wireless 911 service as of January 2006. You can read the GAO report about states’ efforts to provide wireless 911 service here.
I’d just be happy to have 9-1-1 at all. I live in Monroe County (directly North of Washington County) and we have to dial a 10 digit number for the local volunteer fire department (they also have an ambulance). If they don’t have anyone on duty we then have to call another 10 digit number for another service farther away.
Last November we had to call an ambulance and it ended up being over 30 minutes between the first call we made (of two) and the time one actually arrived (at the wrong house).
This fact is thoroughly unacceptable to me and should be to all Ohioans.
Then, a little while ago, I read this in the Columbus Dispatch:
The Associated Press reported in November that up to half of the calls made to 911 centers were coming from cell phones, but only eight of Ohio?s 88 counties, including Delaware and Union counties, had the capability to pinpoint locations using satellites. Another 15 had the less-accurate tower-triangulation system. Only Oklahoma was rated worse than Ohio in its ability to track emergency cell-phone calls.
In 2005, the state legislature approved a 32-cent-per-month state tax on all wireless telephone numbers, administered through the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. That tax raised $24.8 million in 2006, said Shawn Smith, the commission?s 911 coordinator.
The phone companies and the PUCO each keep 2 percent of the money for administrative costs; the rest is disbursed to county treasurers based on the number of cell-phone accounts billed to addresses in those counties, Smith said.
Franklin County gets about $2.9 million a year, and has received $4.3 million since the tax was created in 2005, Smith said. Counties can use the money for equipment, software and training, but “they have to tie it back to wireless 911,” he said.
Sixty-six Ohio counties have received funds; the others have been delayed mainly because their local police and fire departments can?t agree on how to divvy up the money, Smith said.
The tax expires at the end of 2008, Smith said.
“If it were to be extended, the state legislature would have to do it,” Smith said. “The way it stands today, the counties would have to find other funding sources to cover their ongoing costs.”
Now, this isn’t just a question of where Franklin County or any other county is going to find nearly $3 million if and when that surcharge expires. But according to this April ’06 report from the GAO, (pg. 14-15) only four states collect lower surcharges than Ohio’s 32 cents, and 13 states, as of that report, charged more than $1.00, up to $3.00, with another nine states charging 75 cents to 90 cents for a total of nearly half the states charging at least two and a half times what Ohio, the seventh most populous state in the country, charges. Just because our state might be shrinking in size doesn’t mean the more than 11 million still here don’t need services.
Totally unacceptable. Download the report to get even more perspective on the position the Ohio legislature’s failure on this issue, from 1996 until December 2004 has placed Ohioans.
I’ll be emailing both my state rep. Josh Mandel who is the Vice Chair of the Public Utilities Committee (PUCO oversees the 911 service), and my state senator Bob Spada who is on the senate’s Energy and Public Utilities committee. How convenient, huh?
Feel free to contact your representatives to find out if they’re going to renew the surcharge that will otherwise expire in August of this year and plunge Ohio’s increading number of cell phone users into a “can you hear me now” black hole.