A monthly $1 charge on each cellular phone number in Georgia should begin showing up on bills in November, and counties should begin receiving their share early next year.
The charge, approved by the Georgia Legislature earlier this year, allows cellular phone companies to levy the $1 fee to help counties pay for improvements to 911 emergency phone systems.
The companies will collect the fee and issue a check quarterly to local governments, much as Southern Bell does with its $1.50 911 charge for each phone line run to a house.
The fee will be levied whether the phone owner uses the 911 service or not.
"That's no different from your household phone," said county finance director Leanne DeLoach. "I've never used 911, but I still pay the $1.50."
Columbia County officials hope the fees will cover a $75,000 deficit in the operating budget of the 911 department.
"Even though Columbia County is growing and there are telephone numbers coming in constantly, it's still not enough," said Lt. Mike Haywood, who oversees the 911 department.
Cell phones are used for about 20 percent of the calls fielded by county 911 operators each month, and the $1 charge will also help pay for some improvements to the county 911 system.
For example, one improvement would give 911 operators more information about the cell phone call under the enhanced-911 phone system.
Currently, the system can only locate which cellular tower is relaying the cellular phone call.
One of the planned improvements would specify the cell phone number and a more precise location of the call.
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