OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 7270 (as amended by House “A” and “B”)*

AN ACT CONCERNING THE EMERGENCY 9-1-1 SURCHARGE AND MISUSE OF THE E 9-1-1 SYSTEM.

SUMMARY:

This bill establishes a crime of misusing the emergency 911 (E 911) system and makes violations a class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $ 1,000, imprisonment for up to six months, or both. A person is guilty of this crime if he or she (1) dials E 911 or causes it to be dialed in order to make a false alarm or complaint or (2) purposely reports false information that could result in the dispatch of emergency services.

By law, telephone companies must forward the telephone number and street address from which a 911 call is made to a safety answering point. The companies and their agents are immune from liability to the person making the call over the E 911 system for the release of this information. The bill extends these provisions to companies providing voice over internet protocol (VOIP) service (e. g. , Vonage) and their agents but allows a VOIP provider to meet the forwarding requirement by complying with relevant federal law. It also requires VOIP providers and active prepaid wireless telephone service providers providing E 911 services to comply with federal law, and with state law, provided the provisions in state law are not addressed in, or inconsistent with, federal law and regulations.

By law, the Department of Public Utility Control must determine the amount of the monthly fee assessed against each telephone and commercial mobile radio services subscriber to fund the development and administration of the E 911 program. (Commercial mobile radio services include personal communications services (PCS), among others. ) The bill extends this requirement to cover the VOIP and prepaid wireless service providers. It requires the VOIP and prepaid wireless telephone service providers to assess their subscribers the fee.

The bill increases the number of emergency management officials on the State-wide Emergency Management and Homeland Security Coordinating Council from one to two.

*House Amendment “A” allows active prepaid wireless telephone service providers to use a mathematical formula to calculate fees to remit to the state treasurer and requires such providers to comply with state law provided state law is not inconsistent with federal law.

*House Amendment “B” increases the council membership.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2007, except for the provisions making misuse of E 911 a crime and the monthly fee assessments, which are effective October 1, 2007; upon passage for the council membership.

DEFINITIONS

Active Prepaid Wireless Telephone Service

Under the bill, “active prepaid wireless telephone service” is a prepaid wireless telephone service that has an account balance that is at least equal to that E 911 charge imposed by the bill. A “prepaid wireless telephone service” is one activated in advance by payment for a set amount of service or for a number of minutes that terminate (1) when the customer uses them, based on a dollar amount paid in advance or (2) within a certain time after the initial purchase or activation, unless the customer makes additional payments.

VOIP

Under the bill, VOIP is a service that allows real-time two-way voice communication, generally allowing subscribers to make and receive calls using the public switched telephone network. The service requires a broadband connection and Internet-compatible customer premises and equipment.

FEES

The bill requires VOIP service providers to assess a monthly fee against each subscriber to fund the E 911 program in the same way as telephone companies. It requires that the fees be collected in any way consistent with the VOIP provider's existing operating or technological abilities and submitted to the State Treasurer.

The bill requires that each active prepaid wireless service provider pay a fee to the state treasurer for deposit in the Enhanced 9-1-1 Telecommunications Fund based on one of two schemes outlined in the bill.

One requires that a prepaid wireless service provider pay a fee on each prepaid wireless telephone associated with Connecticut, for each wireless service customer that has a positive balance of minutes as of the last day of each month. The fee can be collected from subscribers in any way consistent with the provider's existing operating or technological abilities, such as customer address, location associated with the telephone number originally assigned to the telephone, or other reasonable allocation method based upon comparable relevant data. The fee or an equivalent number of minutes may be deducted from the prepaid subscriber's account if direct billing is not practicable. However, such deductions do not reduce the price of the service for the purposes of the sales tax.

As an alternative to the above, the bill requires that, each month, an active prepaid wireless service provider remit an amount determined by dividing the total of earned prepaid wireless telephone services revenue received during the month from prepaid wireless telephone service accounts with an assigned telephone number associated with Connecticut by 40 and multiplying the result by the amount of the fee.

Both types of providers must remit their fees by the 15th of each month for deposit in the Enhanced 9-1-1 Telecommunications Fund.

If the provider is unable to assess the fee by number or account, it must remit an amount determined by its total prepaid services revenue received each month divided by $ 50, multiplied by the fee.

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AND HOMELAND SECURITY COUNCIL

Under current law, this council includes one local or regional civil preparedness director appointed by the House speaker. The bill adds another and requires that, the Connecticut Emergency Management Association designate this member by July 1, 2007. It replaces the term “civil preparedness director” with “emergency management director” to conform to other statutes. Members serve three years from the time of appointment or until a successor is appointed.

The council advises the departments of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and Public Safety on emergency management and homeland security preparedness, policies, and responses, among other things.

BACKGROUND

Related Law

By law (CGS 53a-180 et seq. ) falsely reporting an incident is a crime. The crime ranges from a class A misdemeanor to a class C felony, depending on the actions taken and their results.

Legislative History

The House referred the bill (File 120) to the Energy and Technology Committee on March 27. On April 3, the committee reported a substitute that (1) modified the definitions of VOIP and pre-paid wireless services, (2) allowed VOIP providers to meet the forwarding requirements by complying with federal law, (3) added the provision establishing the payment amount when a prepaid service provider cannot assess the fee against individual numbers on accounts, and (4) made minor changes.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Public Safety and Security Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

23

Nay

0

(03/06/2007)

Energy and Technology Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

15

Nay

1

(04/03/2007)

Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

53

Nay

0

(05/01/2007)

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

28

Nay

0

(05/04/2007)