New cell phone charge aims to improve customer safety

State regulators gave SBC a green light to bill its cell phone customers an additional 32 cents per month beginning in August. But, a local county sheriff says it’s a small price to pay for personal safety. WOSU’s Tom Borgerding reports.

In Franklin County, as in most Ohio counties, 911 dispatchers cannot trace people calling in on cell phones. And Sheriff Jim Karnes says that’s a problem.

A Wall Street Journal report says fewer than 10 percent of Ohio’s 88 counties have wireless emergency phone locator service. So, the new 32 cent per month charge for SBC customers will help Ohio counties access phone company hardware to trace emergency wireless calls. Corporal Mike Inascavage is supervisor at Franklin County’s 911 Center. He explains how emergency wireless calls are currently routed.

Inascavage adds that sometimes the county gets 911 calls from cell phones that should go to other jurisdictions…wasting valuable time. With no way to trace cell-phone emergencies, Inascavage says it’s “absolutely necessary to get a location from a cell-phone caller. He cited the example of the November 2003 Highway Shooting of 62 year old Gail Knisley.

Sheriff Jim Karnes says with updated cell phone technology the county will be able to locate a caller within a few feet of where the call is made.

The new 32 cent charge for SBC customers begins August 1st. Other phone companies are expected to ask state regulators for the tariff.