Most islands have wireless 911 service
: What is the status of a small fee that was going to be deducted from cell phone charges so police or firefighters could determine the location of 911 wireless calls? I recently was told that it still wasn't in effect. Can you give us an update on that money and if we're going to have that 911 service on cell phones? Who would collect the money and where the money would go?
Answer: The 66-cent monthly surcharge has been imposed on all "commercial mobile radio service" (wireless phone) subscribers since 2004 in Hawaii, and the e911 system was implemented earlier this year, as provided under Section 138-4 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.
The state law was prompted by a Federal Communications Commission order that all wireless phone providers upgrade their 911 equipment.
The surcharge is collected by all wireless providers in the state and deposited into the Wireless Enhanced 911 Fund.
The fund is separate from the state general fund and managed by the Wireless Enhanced 911 Board, which is administratively attached to the state Department of Accounting and General Services.
The money collected is used to reimburse facilities that provide Public Safety Answering Points, which are set up to determine the identification and location of a wireless 911 call for police, fire or ambulance assistance.
On Oahu the Honolulu Police Department unveiled its renovated communications division, equipped as a PSAP, in February.
As of Aug. 31 nearly $20 million had been collected from the Wireless E911 surcharge, said state Comptroller Russ Saito, head of the Department of Accounting and General Services and chairman of the Wireless Enhanced 911 Board.
Also as of the end of August, Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii were 100 percent operational, and Molokai was two-thirds operational, with existing carriers and existing coverage areas, he said.
"This means that in Hawaii, wireless users can be located on a map by the 911 answerer wherever their carriers have coverage," Saito said.
Still, not all areas of the state are covered by all wireless carriers.
So the E911 Board has commissioned a project to determine where additional coverage is required, Saito said.
That includes isolated areas and areas behind natural or man-made obstructions where people with cell phones cannot call anyone.
"The board is also considering another project to look into more accurately pinpointing the origin of wireless calls to 911," Saito said.
"This is especially important when emergency responders need to quickly get to the wireless caller in distress who might be off the road or in a location that is difficult to find or get to."
Saito said the board expects to use the money in the Wireless E911 fund to initiate projects that will improve coverage areas as well as more accurately pinpoint locations.
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