Fair Increase to Wireless Device 911 Levy to Modernize 911 Call Centres
IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the AUMA advocate the Alberta government for an increase to the levy payable outlined in the Emergency 911 Levy Regulation, from 44 cents to 97 cents per month per wireless device, prior to renewing the Regulation, which expires on March 31, 2021, to ensure the modernization of technology in 911 call centers and enhance public safety across Alberta.
WHEREAS twenty Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), such as 911 call centres, across Alberta provide a fast-acting, critical link between Albertans and emergency responders who ensure the health and safety of Albertans; and
WHEREAS PSAPs are funded by municipalities and the 911 Levy, which is collected and distributed by the Province from telecommunication providers: and
WHEREAS the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has directed telecom providers and 911 call centres across Canada to modernize the 911 network, transitioning to IP-based technology, known as Next Generation 911 or NG911 (Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2017-182); and
WHEREAS under new CRTC mandates, Albertans will access 911 services through numerous new points-of-contact (texting, video messaging, photo sharing, and enhanced location services, etc.) that are costly to implement; and
WHEREAS section 4 of the Alberta Emergency 911 Act outlines a levy to fund the day-to-day operations and technology in the 911 call centres across Alberta; and
WHEREAS section 23 of the Alberta Regulation 18/2014 (Emergency 911 Levy Regulation) specifies the regulation is set to expire on March 31, 2021 providing limited time to advocate the Province for a levy increase; and
WHEREAS section 2(1) of Alberta Regulation 18/2014 (Emergency 911 Levy Regulation) sets the Alberta 911 levy at 44 cents per month per wireless device, the second lowest in Canada; and
WHEREAS the current levy rate poses a risk to public safety by limiting Alberta 911 call centres access to adequate funding sources and creating an obstacle for them to adopt new technologies.
Benefits and Risks
- All Alberta municipalities benefit from the wireless device 911 levy by receiving emergency 911 services that bolster public safety.
- The CRTC mandated new technologies in 911 call centres will increase the responsiveness of emergency services and access to 911 services.
- An increase in the cellular 911 levy, paid by cellular device users, will assist in offsetting the costs associated with implementing NG911.
- Without adequate funding, there is a risk to public safety as 911 call centres will not have the financial means to adopt technologies mandated by the CRTC, leading to a decreased responsiveness in meeting the emergency needs of Albertans.
- Time is limited, as the Alberta Regulations expire on March 31, 2021 and the CRTC has directed telecommunications providers to decommission outdated 911 networks by March 30, 2024.
CRTC Directives and Next Generation 911
- On June 1, 2017, the CRTC directed all telephone companies to update their networks in order to be ready to provide next-generation 911 (NG911) services. 911 call centres are required to replace existing equipment and update their operational models to keep pace with public expectations for new technology. According to the CRTC, the current 911 system has reached end of life and will be decommissioned on March 30, 2024.
- Alberta 911 centres must transition to the new technology in order to continue taking emergency calls from the public, as mandated by the CRTC in Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC2017-182. The new Canadian NG911 Transition Timelines (dates subject to update per the April 8, 2020 CRTC letter direction):
- March 30, 2021 - NG911 voice services available to 911 call centres
- March 30, 2022 - Availability of NG911 real time text messaging (iMessage, WhatsApp, etc.)
- March 30, 2024 - Telus to decommission outdated 911 networks
- There has been no federal funding offered for this transition, as the Federal Government nor the CRTC do not have a mandate to fund or operate PSAPs. However, the CRTC regulates Telecommunication companies who recover some of their costs through tariffs.
Previous Advocacy and Current Support
- In 2011, The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) advocated for a cellular 911 call answer fee through the Wireless Emergency 911 Dispatch resolution leading to a 911 emergency call levy for cellular device subscribers in Alberta.
- On November 1, 2019, The Rural Municipalities of Alberta passed Resolution 21-19F, Cellular 911 Call Answer Fees Increase.
- The Province of New Brunswick announced an increase of their 911 levy from 53 cents to 97 cents per month.
- The Alberta E911 Advisory Association (AEAA) is an independent society comprised of 911 centre managers from across Alberta, RCMP, Alberta Health Services, and other interested stakeholders. The AEAA unanimously supports increasing the wireless cellular device 911 levy.
- The AEEA recommends the increase to a 97-cent levy based on results of a survey of the various 911 levies across Canada, which were used to develop projections for a few different scenarios. Given the current economic climate, AEEA determined that 97 cents is a reasonable request in line with what other provinces are seeking, considering the costs incurred to improve public safety.
- The Canadian NG911 Coalition, a collection of interested parties, created an informative document titled NG911 Transition Roadmap for Canadian PSAPs (2018).
The response from the Minister of Municipal Affairs acknowledges that next-generation 911 services will result in increased costs and states that the amount of the 911 levy is under review by the province.
On March 11, 2021, the UCP government tabled Bill 56, the Local Measures Statutes Amendment Act, in the legislature. Under this bill, Albertans would be required to pay 95 cents for the monthly wireless levy starting in September, more than double the current amount of 44 cents dating back to 2014. The bill passed second reading on April 19, 2021.
AUMA will continue to monitor the passage of the bill and the development of associated funding programs to support the transition to NEXTGEN 911 services.
AUMA categorizes the response to this resolutions as "Intent partially met – further action required."