STUTTGART, Ark. (KTHV) - Usage of land line phones dropped significantly over the last decade, and now Arkansas 911 centers are seeing the effects. Charges from landlines fund emergency communication, but the well is running low. State leaders could call on cell phones to save the day, and that could mean an additional charge on the monthly bill.
For every land phone line, the state gets between 5 and 12 percent of the monthly bill to pay for 911 centers. For every cell phone, the state gets 65 cents per phone and then redistributes the money to counties based on population. With land lines dropping left and right, most Arkansas counties need a new source of revenue.
"We started out with 16,000 landlines in 1996, and today we have 8,000 landlines," said Arkansas County Judge Sonny Cox.
Cox said the shortfall puts the county in a bind between tapping general revenue or upgrading much needed 911 communications.
"Very few of the PSAPS (public safety answering points) in the state of Arkansas have the capability to accept text messages in 911 because we do not have the software," said Cox.
Spokesman of Association of Arkansas Counties, Scott Perkins, said this is a widespread issue, and many can't afford upgrades without finding other sources.
"It's 80-90 percent of counties are using appropriations from the county quorum court to support 911 centers in the state of Arkansas," said Perkins.
Perkins said state leaders are in the beginning stages of finding a solution and one could be increasing the monthly charge on cell phones.
"It's not going to get to a point where you're paying five dollars for a user fee on a cell phone for 911. We're talking about cents here, and I think it is a very minimal price to pay for funding 911 and ensuring that for the future of Arkansas," said Perkins.
According to Perkins, without upgrades smaller counties especially will be at risk and may not be able to provide efficient emergency response.