911 system remains fatally flawed despite millions collected in 911 service fee

CBS12 Investigates uncovered a fatal flaw in the 911 system. We tested the four major cell phone carriers and each time, we had an issue locating the caller.


We looked into the issue further and found each month cell phone users pay a monthly fee for 911 services.


Every month, on every bill, users pay 40 cents. Multiply that by the number of cell phone users in the state and the monthly total is in the millions.

CBS12 Investigates tracked down where that money goes.

It’s different in every state. In Florida, the 40 cents is sent to the state coffers.

The fee is located under the government taxes and fees category of your cell phone bill.

In this section, customers also pay a state communications service tax and a county communications tax.

The taxes and fees combined add up to about $4 dollars a month.

The state re-distributes the 40 cent 911 fee to each county based on their number of cell phone subscribers.

That distribution is crucial for Palm Beach County’s service center.

Their budget last year was $6.8 Million dollars with most of it coming from cell phone fees. $4.4 Million came from cell phone fees and $2.3 Million came from landline fees.

“We’re fortunate because we have the population and amount of phones we have in the county,” said Daniel Koenig, the 911 planning coordinator for Palm Beach County.

“We are doing well with the funding. All of our equipment is well maintained,” Koenig said.


Koenig said the issue with locating cell phone callers lies with the cell phone carriers.

Carriers currently provide the cell tower address to 911 when someone calls.

Koenig said instead, the carriers need to provide the caller’s exact location right away.

We reached out for comment to all four of the cell phone carriers: Verizon, ATT, T-Mobile and Sprint.

Their group association, CTIA, sent us a statement that indicates they are actively working collaboratively with the FCC on solving the issue. (See full statement below)

Digging deeper, we learned the FCC will have new regulations that go into effect in 2021 that require all wireless carriers to provide the exact locations of at least 80 percent of all cell phone callers.

So, what can you do to make sure 911 knows exactly where you are? It starts with you knowing exactly where you are.

One way is by simply using your map app already installed on your phone.

Once the app is open, you can tap on the location marker on the left side of the screen, and a blue dot will appear on a map, showing you your exact location.


Matt Gerst, Assistant Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

“Wireless 9-1-1 location technologies have helped first responders save lives for more than 20 years. As more people rely on cellphones and smartphones, CTIA and our member companies are working with the FCC and public safety professionals to continuously innovate and harness commercial wireless location services in support of critical emergency response communications."

"Today, more than 90% of wireless 9-1-1 calls have location information that meets existing FCC requirements for outdoor wireless calls to 9-1-1. In the future, wireless carriers will meet FCC requirements for both outdoor and indoor 9-1-1 calls using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth based technologies."

“Public safety is critically important to the wireless industry, and wireless carriers are continuously innovating to help first responders and the public better prepare for and respond to emergencies. Today, wireless carriers are working hard to meet the FCC’s new, enhanced requirements for 9-1-1 location accuracy that begin this year.

CTIA and our member companies are also working collaboratively with the FCC and the public safety community to thoroughly evaluate new technologies that may enhance existing 9-1-1 location accuracy capabilities. The FCC mandated an independent testing program to verify that these technologies can provide superior location accuracy. Vendors of these technologies are welcome and encouraged to participate in the independent testing program to demonstrate how their technologies add value to the existing 9-1-1 location accuracy."

"Today, most wireless 9-1-1 calls provide location information that meets existing FCC requirements. To meet the FCC's new rules for location accuracy, the wireless industry, the public safety community and the FCC are working together to innovate and harness new wireless location services that will enhance our 9-1-1 location accuracy capabilities.

With nationwide wireless 9-1-1 services, we need to be certain that location technology works in diverse environments around the country, integrates across different networks and devices, and is operable with 6,000 local 9-1-1 call centers. Given the FCC's previous experience with companies that couldn't deliver on their technology claims, vendors of location accuracy solutions are welcome to prove that their technologies can provide superior location accuracy by participating in the independent testing programs mandated by the FCC. (For more information, see:

"To support further innovation in emergency communications, including indoor location accuracy, the wireless industry, along with the FCC and public safety professionals, is rigorously evaluating new technologies under real-life conditions at two test sites. We are pleased that this testing infrastructure has helped evaluate whether new communications technologies will improve 9-1-1 location accuracy and help first responders."

"We should all recognize that wireless location is an evolving technology. Consumers should always be prepared to tell a 9-1-1 dispatcher their location, even as the wireless network generates location information, because that will help first responders more quickly, effectively and safely respond to emergencies."

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