House examines 911 funding - Legislation needs to include "wireless technology"

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Missouri News Horizon
– Changing the way Missouri funds its 911 emergency call service was at the top of the agenda for a state House committee on Wednesday.

Lake St. Louis Representative Chuck Gatschenberger led the group, which heard testimony from telephone carriers, 911 administrators and other special interest groups with a vested stake in funding the service.

Gatschenberger said he wants to see if there is a way to modernize how the service is funded. Many local 911 agencies have been losing funding with the decline of landline services in favor of wireless phone carriers. Currently, 53 counties in the state of Missouri have 911 services that are funded solely through landline tariffs, said Carol Moreland, a Stoddard County 911 administrator.

Moreland said she’d like to see legislation updated to allow 911 call centers to derive revenue from all manner of electronic communication. 911 call centers need to regularly update their equipment to adapt to new technology, and she said it’s only fair that all share in the cost – not just landline users.

Moreland said, “We’re constantly cutting the budget and saving for the next equipment purchase.  The viable option for my county would be to change the wording of the present legislation from telephone to wireless technology.”

The committee took no immediate action at the hearing. Past attempts to streamline 911 funding in Missouri have failed in the state legislature