The Truth Behind the 911 F.E.E. (For Everything Else)

[CLICK HERE for an Audio Version of this Blog]

You are likely familiar with the expression, “I’m being nickled and dimed to death here!” The premise of that statement is that small subsets of a much larger bill will ultimately go unnoticed to most, as the scrutiny required to find each instance is typically more costly of an effort compared to just paying the bill. “Spending a dollar to save a quarter”, is another example.

Given this unfortunate situation, when you steal enough quarters, the payout can be huge. It’s right out of the script from the classic movie plot. Steal 1 penny 2,000,000 times and you have $20,000 completely under the radar. Steal a dollar every month from every cellular phone with a plan on the market, and you have a whopping pool of money! The CTIA estimates that in 2017, there were 396,000,000 cellular subscribers (https://api.ctia.org/docs/default-source/default-document-library/ctia-wireless-snapshot.pdf). That means in the US ALONE there is a potential money pool of $4,752,000,000 each year, if a single dollar per month were collected from each subscriber, and actually given to the cause it was collected for. Again, this is just the cellular fees alone.

It’s no wonder that States like New York, and New Jersey and several others all fail to report this income. Even worse, is when States openly spend the money on other uses, like Rhode Island. To make matters even worse, when the Ocean State got caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar, and were called out by the FCC, they simply changed the name of the fee, and continued to divert monies to activities that were not 911 related.

New Jersey was another example of gross misrepresentation where 89% of their funds were diverted. Think about that, if you knew that 90% of the money you put in the Salvation Army charity pots at Christmas time was going to something unrelated, would you continue to drop in your spare change? If the volunteer firemen took 90 cents out of every dollar they collected at intersections on the Holiday weekends, and spent it on beer and hamburgers, would you ever drop another dollar in the fire helmet? I sure wouldn’t.

THERE SHOULD BE A LAW . . .

Yes, there should, and quite possibly there will be one Legislator who gets his way. Rep. Chris Collins introduced the 911 Fee Integrity Act (H.R. 6424) to the U.S. House of Representatives in an effort to change how states use 911 fees they collect. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on July 18th, where it will be scheduled for a hearing.

As most Bills are, at this stage in their life cycle, the Bill is simple to understand and reads:

To amend the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999,
to clarify acceptable 9–1–1 obligations or expenditures, and for other purposes. 

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the “9–1–1 Fee Integrity Act”.

 SEC. 2. CLARIFYING ACCEPTABLE 9–1–1 OBLIGATIONS OR EXPENDITURES.
Section 6(f) of the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999 (47 U.S.C. 615a–1(f)) is amended—

  • in paragraph (1), by striking “as specified in the provision of State or local law adopting the fee or charge” and inserting “consistent with acceptable obligations or expenditures in the final rules issued pursuant to paragraph (3)”; and
  • after paragraph (2), by inserting the following new paragraph:

“(3) ACCEPTABLE OBLIGATION OR EXPENDITURE.—

“(A) REGULATIONS REQUIRED.—In order to prevent diversion of 9–1–1 taxes, fees, or charges, the Commission shall, within 180 days after date of the enactment of this paragraph, issue final rules designating purposes and functions that are acceptable obligations or expenditures by any State or taxing jurisdiction authorized to impose a tax, fee, or charge.

“(B) PURPOSES AND FUNCTIONS.—The purposes and functions described in subparagraph (A) include only those used solely for the support and implementation of a State or taxing jurisdiction 9–1–1 services and operational expenses of public safety answering points within a State or taxing jurisdiction.

“(C) CONSULTATION REQUIRED.—The Commission shall consult with public safety organizations and State, local, and Tribal governments as part of any proceeding under this paragraph.

“(D) DEFINITIONS.—In this paragraph:

“(i) 9–1–1 SERVICES; E9–1–1 SERVICES; NEXT GENERATION 9–1–1 SERVICES.—The terms ‘9–1–1 services’, ‘E9–1–1 services’, and ‘Next Generation 9–1–1 services’ have the meaning given those terms in section 158(e) of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Organization Act (47 U.S.C. 942(e)).

“(ii) STATE OR TAXING JURISDICTION.—The term ‘State or taxing jurisdiction’ means a State, political subdivision thereof, Indian Tribe, or village or regional corporation serving a region established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.).”.

Remember, your elected officials WILL VOTE based on your input. Reach out to them, make them aware that your personal safety, and theirs, is on the line here. Tell them that if they will not change the law to keep this from happening, you will ensure that someone who will is going to get your vote at the next election.

Our nation’s First Responder agencies need our help, they put their lives on the line everyday so that we can remain safe, the least we can do is ensure the monies collected in the name actually get to them!

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Follow me on Twitter:  @Fletch911
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