Lawmakers to Discuss Cellular 9-1-1 Upgrade

By: Sabrina Wu
By: Sabrina Wu

In a crisis situation, people want to know if they dial 9-1-1, help is on the way. Unfortunately, in Wisconsin, there's no guarantee that'll happen if you dial 9-1-1 from a cell phone. Lawmakers are scheduled to meet Tuesday to talk about adding a user-fee to cell phone bills to help pay for a technology upgrade.

"Most people assume that if they dial 9-1-1, the service is going to be guaranteed, just like if you're at home dialing, but that's not the case in Wisconsin," Brian Sladek, Lincoln County Emergency Management Director said.

Right now, cell phone calls made from one county in Wisconsin might be picked up in another county, so in an emergency, people would need to be able to tell police exactly where they are.

"The people that are in dire straits or in an emergency may not know where they are," Sladek said. "Or are suffering from some sort of health problem and isn't going to be able to tell us where they are."

The technology is available. The problem is how to pay for it.

"Wisconsin hasn't passed legislation that will allow for a funding mechanism," Sladek said.

He says one catch that's hanging up the process to fund an upgrade, is the question of how cell phone companies and local governments are going to split the user fee. Because both the companies and local governments will have to spend money to change the systems they have now.