Philadelphia suburb sues service providers over 911 fees

Philadelphia suburb Delaware County is suing 19 Pennsylvania telecom providers because, it claims, they came up short on $41.4 million in 911 fees over a six-year period, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

According to the story, Delaware County, which sits adjacent to Philadelphia, spent $15.6 million on emergency services with $7 million of that paid from the general fund so that its emergency services department could handle in excess of one million calls annually. To pay for the services, county customers pay $1 a month on each landline or mobile device, leading to confusion since landline funds go to the county and wireless are targeted for the state.

The suit claims that providers should charge large companies for each landline capable of making a call but instead are only charging for one main line for the building. It also claims that by misclassifying customer services, providers didn't collect the proper amount of 911 fees.

Not everyone--especially service providers but also elected officials--agrees with the county's contentions. State Rep. Steve Barrar told the newspaper that the state's emergency services law allows discounts to telecom customers with multiple lines, including businesses.

"I tried to explain that to them, but they didn't want to listen to me," Barrar said. "I'm not really sure what their thinking is."

The county worked with a forensic telecom company, Phone Recovery Services, to bolster its claims.

While spokespersons for Windstream and Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) declined to comment, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) spokesperson Lee Gierczynski said the service provider questions "the motivations of this so-called forensic expert … (that) has a financial incentive to pursue these types of cases."

For more:
-see this Philadelphia Inquirer story

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