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Metro Vancouver cities to target butt-dial crisis

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver



Butt dials are becoming a pain in the rear for municipal finances.

Metro Vancouver civic politicians are expected to vote this week on whether to support a 911 “call levy” that would charge dialing costs using monthly fees for all wireless and landline users — instead of through property taxes.

Regional politicians have rejected the idea before because of an additional seven-cent-per-line fee that would be charged by telecom companies.

Metro Vancouver board staff are recommending the idea be rejected, but some civic officials are beginning to believe charging a levy has merit.

City of Langley Coun. Gayle Martin said on Sunday that so-called “butt dials” are an increasing problem that costs in terms of 911 call centre and police resources, and a levy could be the solution.

“The problem is the thousands and thousands of calls they get every year are not emergency calls. They’re pocket dials,” she said.

“Sometimes a pocket dial can take up to an hour of somebody’s time … and they’re not emergency calls. They’re just a mistake.”

Providing 911 service is estimated to cost B.C. as much as $13 million each year — about $3.9 million of that paid annually by Metro Vancouver property taxes at approximately $4 per home.

According to Metro Vancouver staff, the current rates would translate to a levy of about 20 cents per phone line to cover those same costs. But charging 50 cents per month, per phone line, could increase revenues to as much as $31 million each year.

Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew said it’s a good idea because there’s a lot more cell phone users out there than there are homeowners in B.C.

“Better a few cents from all users of telephones and cell phones than a larger levy on the captive property owners,” he said.





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