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Guam senators revisit E911 surcharge collections retained by local carriers

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Sen. Telo Taitague’s Bill 308 – which establishes a cap of 5 percent as the portion of 911 surcharge collections that service providers may retain to help cover costs associated with collecting and transmitting these funds to the government of Guam – was heard during a public hearing today.

By law, 911 surcharge collections may be used to support the operations of the 911 call/dispatch center, the purchase/lease/maintenance of E911 hardware/software, including video security cameras and related equipment, supplies, installation and maintenance services, and system/engineering services related to the installation, maintenance and upgrade of E911 hardware/software.

Bill 308 was introduced in response to issues that were raised during the fiscal 2023 budget hearing for the Guam Fire Department which was held in May

During the budget hearing, GFD representatives sought the assistance of senators concerning the portion of monthly Enhanced 911 (E-911) surcharge collections that is retained by service providers.

According to GFD representatives, an average of $0.85 of the $1 monthly surcharge is remitted to the government of Guam, with the remaining $0.15 retained by service providers for administrative costs.

“The 911 emergency surcharge provides funding for the continued operations of 911 emergency dispatch services on Guam. This fee which is collected and remitted by local communication providers supports emergency fire, EMS, and police services. Currently, administrative cost percentages retained by these providers are inconsistent and higher than the rates that are assessed in other jurisdictions in referencing the OPA Report 2010-06,” Fire Chief Daniel Stone said.

“With the GFD Next Generation 911 platform slated to be online early next year – this is an opportunity to revisit disparities and conflicts in the collections related to administrative expenses claimed by the different providers," he added.

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) reported that from fiscal years 2011 through 2017, the total annual amount per year retained by collection agents to cover their administrative costs was roughly $144,000.

Out of annual remittances averaging over $2 million, the total annual administrative costs for all telecommunication companies in Guam were in the range of $144,000.

“This measure responds to GFD’s request during their FY 2023 budget hearing several months ago, for the legislature to investigate the portion of monthly surcharges that are retained by telecom providers. Bill 308 reaffirms the commitment I made then to ensure the legislature looks into this matter and amends the law if necessary,” Taitague said.

“Bill 308 prioritizes public safety and the requirements of our first responders while recognizing the critical role telecom providers serve in collecting these funds in a timely and efficient manner. The 5 percent cap for administrative costs in Bill 308 is a starting point and this ceiling may be amended if justified by the PUC, service providers, and GFD.”

Taitague requested the oversight committee to conduct a roundtable to further discuss the information the PUC may have available regarding yearly collections – and the costs which are covered by 911 surcharges on an annual basis.

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