9-1-1 Telephone Surcharges

Much of LCWC's funding is provided by 9-1-1 surcharges on traditional landline, wireless and voice-over-IP (VOIP) telephone lines. These surcharges are collected by your telephone company and appear as a monthly fee on your telephone bill.

For wireless and VOIP phone lines, the fee is $1.00 per month per line. For landline phones, the fee for Lancaster County is $1.25 per month per line. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about these fees.

Why the $1.25 surcharge?

This may be answered by referencing The Public Safety Emergency Telephone Act (Act 78 of 1990) which established provisions for the formation of a Statewide 9-1-1 emergency telephone system. The act is designed to provide a no-charge telephone number (9-1-1) for individuals within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to gain rapid direct access to emergency aid. Specifically it states, County governments are encouraged to develop 9-1-1 enhanced system plans to the greatest extent possible.

The older 9-1-1 system in place at the Lancaster County Courthouse Annex was funded totally by the County of Lancaster through real estate tax revenues. Instead of paying for an Enhanced 9-1-1 System from the county real estate taxes, Act 78 of 1990 allows a contribution rate to be established by each county based upon the non-recurring costs, maintenance costs, and operational costs to provide 9-1-1 service. The contribution rate is determined by the classification of each county. Lancaster County is a Third-class County and Act 78 of 1990 allows a contribution rate not to exceed $1.25 per line per month to be assessed against a telephone subscriber and collected by the telephone company. The fee is identified on each telephone bill by the wording "Public Safety Emergency Telephone Act (9-1-1) Fee $1.25".

I have several phones in my home. Will I be charged for each one of them?

No, you will only be charged on the number of telephone lines (different numbers) into your home.

I have multiple telephone lines, are there any breaks for this?

Yes, in the case of Centrex or similar multiple line subscribers, except PBX subscribers, Act 78 of 1990 allows for a price break depending on the number of lines. Lines 1-25 at the full approved contribution rate. Lines 26 through 100 at 75% of the approved contribution rate; lines 101 through 250 at 50% of the approved rate; lines 251 through 500 at 20% of the approved rate; and for lines 501 or more at 17.2% of the approved rate.

Does everyone have to pay the contribution rate?

Yes, the contribution rate is determined by the total non-recurring, maintenance, and operational expenses for providing a 9-1-1 Enhanced system divided by the present number of access lines, adjusted for Centrex. (An access line is defined as each dial tone line or PBX trunk group member.) The resulting figure, which in our case is $33.19, is the annual 9-1-1 contribution rate per access line for Lancaster County. Fifteen dollars ($15.00) is the maximum annual 9-1-1 contribution rate amount allowed under Act 78 of 1990 and that is the amount used in Lancaster County. The annual amount ($15.00) is then divided by twelve months to obtain the monthly contribution rate of $1.25 per access line which appears on your telephone bill.

Why not charge on an as needed basis or per call back to the calling party?

This mechanism of payment was evaluated by the legislature and was found to be inadequate and defeated the purpose of 9-1-1 services. The intent of the act was to make available to all citizens and visitors in Pennsylvania an easy to remember three digit telephone number to allow persons in an emergency, who are under considerable stress, to easily access the Emergency Communication Center at a reasonable cost. Very high service charges or a significant shortfall in paying for Enhanced 9-1-1 service would result if charges were made on an as needed basis or per call. That would have a negative impact on low and moderate income households and those persons on a fixed income.

Is the telephone fee a unique funding method?

No, this funding method for providing 9-1-1 service is not unique to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

I thought this charge was only for 9-1-1 services. What does Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) or a Geographic Information System (GIS) have to do with this?

The utilization of CAD and GIS (Geographic Information System) with an Enhanced 9-1-1 system allows for the most rapid dispatch of appropriate emergency services to the call for help from the citizens and visitors in Lancaster County. The Enhanced 9-1-1 system provides the location of the caller to the CAD system which will provide the dispatcher with a listing of emergency equipment to send to the caller's location. Additional information like previous calls at the same address, standard operating procedures for the type of call or complaint entered by the call taker, priority listing of calls in the event of multiple calls during natural or technological emergencies, and automatic replacement of units that are out-of-service may be accomplished through the CAD system. Various print-outs and record keeping tasks that were previously done on hand written documents, cards and notes are incorporated in the CAD and Enhanced 9-1-1 system.

GIS receives the location of the call at the same time as the dispatcher and the CAD system. The GIS provides the dispatcher with a map display of the actual location of the call along with a display of the surrounding area from information provided by the tax assessment office, recorder of deeds, planning commission, emergency management agency, utilities, and other agencies in Lancaster County. GIS can also provide the location of the emergency equipment or the location of the nearest water source from ponds, streams or hydrants.

Products of GIS also help in the maintenance of the Master Street Address Guide (MSAG) which is an integral part of the Enhanced 9-1-1 system database. The MSAG contains all streets and address ranges of telephone subscribers within Lancaster County. The MSAG validation involves the cooperation of all municipalities and telephone companies in Lancaster County in addition to various county agencies. The telephone company provides the initial information to the county for all telephone subscribers and LCWC validates and assigns an Emergency Service Number (ESN) to each unique jurisdictional area and updates the information on a continual basis when new roads are constructed or names changed.