If county commissioners give their approval next week, Cleveland County will be one of the first counties in the state to vote on an enhanced 9-1-1 tax placed on cellular telephones. A Dec. 13 vote is being proposed so as to coincide with similar votes in Oklahoma, Logan, Grady and Garvin counties.

The 50-cent surcharge will pay for public safety upgrades allowing dispatchers to know the location of emergency calls made on cellular telephones. The system is currently funded by a tax on landline bills. It's flawed and needs help.

We think the $6 per year fee is money well spent but think some controls ought to be in there so that the tax must be justified after the initial investment is made. We understand there will be ongoing costs but someone needs to justify that cost each year.

Officials with the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments report that wireless calls now account for about half of all emergency calls and that number is growing each year. Unlike landline telephones, dispatchers can't automatically trace the call to a location. The Norman City Council this week heard horror stories of callers needing aid and not being able to tell the dispatcher where they were located.

Callers often don't know which emergency responder they should summon. In addition, 9-1-1 calls made on cellular telephones don't always track to the correct dispatcher.

House Bill 1751 was signed into law earlier this summer by Gov. Brad Henry. It requires providers to upgrade their infrastructure to accommodate enhanced 911 and allows communities to tax cell phones to pay for it.

There are 10 percent fewer landlines than there were in 2002 and that number is growing. More and more telephone users now choose to have only cellular service. Spreading the cost of emergency communications among all users seems more equitable.

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