WHEREAS twenty public safety answering points (PSAPs) are operated by municipalities in Alberta for the purpose of receiving 911 calls for the vast majority of Alberta communities; and
WHEREAS the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has directed telecom providers and PSAPs 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 these mandatory technology changes will provide the public with numerous new access points to emergency services (i.e. through real time texting, video messaging, pictures, etc.); and
WHEREAS the costs associated with modernizing 911 infrastructure and associated changes to ongoing operations will be quite costly for each PSAP; and
WHEREAS the PSAP revenue from landline telephones is declining 3% to 7% per year; and
WHEREAS an increase in the cellular 911 call answer levy, remitted by cellular device users, will assist in offsetting the costs associated with implementing NG 911;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request that the Government of Alberta amend the Emergency 911 Levy Regulation and increase the 911 levy payable by cellular device subscribers to $0.97 per month;
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the increased revenues be distributed to the entities operating 911 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs).
In 2005 and again in 2011 the Rural Municipalities of Alberta brought forward resolutions concerning cellular charges for 911 service (Resolutions 29-05F and 21-11F). The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association also supported a resolution favoring the establishment of a cellular 911 call answer fee (Resolution 2007.C.ii.7). In 2013 the Government of Alberta established the Emergency 911 Act, which came into force on April 1st, 2014. The Act set in place a monthly cellphone levy to help fund the day-to-day operations and new technology in the 911 centres across the province.
With changes to the 911 infrastructure and the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulations, it is necessary for 911 centres to not only replace existing equipment, but also change their operational models to keep pace with public expectations for new technology, such as text to 911, video messaging, etc. The current 911 system has reached end of life and will be decommissioned on June 30th, 2023. Alberta 911 centres must transition to the new technology in order to continue taking emergency calls from the public. These changes are mandated by the CRTC in Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2017-182. The timeline for the transition to Next Generation (NG) 911 is below:
PSAPs have been advised by the CRTC’s Emergency Services Working Group (ESWG) to budget up to $90,000 per seat in their communications centres in capital and operational budgets, within the first year, to pay for increased NG 911 costs.
The current Alberta 911 cellphone levy is 44 cents per month. This is the second lowest in Canada, is 24 cents less than average 911 levies in other provinces, and is 73 cents less than the highest levy.
The Alberta E911 Advisory Association (AEAA) is an independent society comprised of 911 centre managers from across Alberta, the RCMP, Alberta Health Services, and other interested stakeholders. The AEAA unanimously supports increasing the 911 cellphone levy. The Canadian NG 911 Coalition, a collection of interested parties, has put together an informative document titled, NG911 Transition Roadmap for Canadian PSAPs (2018). The rising costs of providing 911 service are highlighted by this group, and as well by the ESWG of the CRTC.
Albertans expect the highest quality 911 service, and rely on their local PSAPs to deliver emergency services when they are in need. They expect that the province is, at a minimum, keeping pace with the rest of Canada. If the provincial 911 cellphone levy is not increased, Alberta could fall behind other provinces with new NG911 services like texting with 911 and the associated technologies and operational models that support those services.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Municipal Affairs
Recent and related Municipal Affairs initiatives
Alberta Treasury Board and Finance
Alberta Treasury Board and Finance has no input on this resolution, as it is within the mandate of Alberta Municipal Affairs.
The Government of Alberta response acknowledges that the costs of implementing Next Generation (NG) 911 services will have significant impact on Alberta PSAPs and that research is underway to determine how best to fund required upgrades.
In June 2021, Bill 56: Local Measures Statutes Amendment Act, 2021 received Royal Assent. Bill 56 includes amendments to the Emergency 911 Act, as well as expected changes to the Emergency 911 Levy Regulation, that will have the effect of increasing the 911 levy payable by wireless subscribers from $0.44 per month to $0.95 per month beginning on September 1, 2021. This levy increase is expected to better support 911 call centres to upgrade technology to comply with new Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) mandated changes.
Bill 56 also broadens the eligible recipients of the levy revenues to include secondary 911 call centres. This change means that levy revenues will now be accessed by an additional nine secondary call centres, including several operated by the Government of Alberta and RCMP. The exact impacts of this expansion on the revenues that will flow to primary call centres is not known, but RMA is concerned that the broadened pool of levy recipients will partially offset the increased revenues that would be received by the primary call centres due to the levy increase.
As the transition process to NG911 has begun, municipalities will not only be required to take on some level of costs to support PSAPs in acquiring needed technological upgrades, but will also be required to invest time and money in upgrading and standardizing their addressing information for use in the GIS database required for NG911. While the costs of these upgrades are unknown and may vary by municipality, RMA is concerned that the levy increase may be inadequate to cover both PSAP and municipal costs.
In Budget 2022, the Government of Alberta invested an additional $23 million in 911 call centre support. While it is unknown how this added funding will be used, RMA is hopeful that it will help to offset municipal costs associated with upgrading PSAPs.
Although this resolution calls for the levy to be increased to $0.97, RMA considers the actual increase to $0.95 to meet the general intent of the resolution. This resolution is assigned a status of Accepted.