Public Safety Awareness

Wireless 911 Surcharges by State – How Much Are You Paying?

911 wireless fees by state

Modern cell phones are capable of doing so many incredible things, from taking photos to sending email to playing games to browsing the web. For as nice as those functions are, one of the best features of cell phones is their ability to serve as a quick connection to emergency services.

While most cell phone users cherish their mobile devices for their convenience and wide range of functions, cell phones are also extremely important safety tools. In the United States, 70 percent of all 911 calls are placed from cellular phones, and it is estimated that this percentage will grow with each coming year.

However, many people do not realize that they pay for this potentially life-saving luxury. Of course, the actual act of dialing 911 does not cost a consumer, as 911 calls are always toll free. Although individual callers are not charged for calling 911, consumers do pay for the service through taxes and fees. Different states use different methods to collect and distribute 911 and E911 fees, but in most cases, these fees are built in as a small monthly charge on a mobile user’s cell phone bill.

According to the National Emergency Number Association’s 911 Surcharge Report, the average monthly 911 surcharge built into cell phone bills varies from state-to-state. A few of the most notable numbers from the report, all of which are marked on the map above, include:

•    $3.00 – the highest monthly charge for mobile 911 service in the U.S. (West Virginia)
•    $0.20 – the lowest monthly charge for mobile 911 service in the U.S. (Arizona)
•    $0.00 – residents of Wisconsin and Missouri do not pay 911 surcharges on cell phone bills

In some states, consumers don’t see charges on their cell phone bills, but end up paying in other ways:

•    In California, for example, a 911 tax is set annually by the California Department of General Services and collected by suppliers of intrastate telecommunications services. The current charge is ¾ of 1 percent of the intrastate toll. The funds are used to support California’s public safety answering points (PSAPs) and are paid directly to the California Board of Equalization.
•    Vermont has implemented a broad-based charge called the Universal Service Funding program. This charge is a single rate for all services in any given year, applies only to retail revenues, and is set annually by the Public Service Board. It is currently set at 2 percent.
•    In Nevada, the charges are equal to wire line surcharges and are collected through property taxes. Those charges vary by jurisdiction.

Of all the states, 17 collect statewide E911 fees that are eventually distributed back to the counties or apportioned directly by the state. These states include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, and Vermont.

In addition, 10 states allow local jurisdictions to establish funding mechanisms, like retail sales tax for example, for 911 and E911 charges that are subject to state regulation. The states that participate in this type of 911 and E911 fee collection are Alaska, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The remaining states have allowed at least two governing bodies or providers to collect 911 and E911 fees from wireless consumers. These fees are charged per wireless device purchase. The states involved in this practice are Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia.

Note to publishers: Feel free to share this infographic on your own website or blog (as long as it remains unaltered and you are linking back to the source).

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