ACS approved for E911 tariff

The borough may have to pay an extra tax for 911 address listings for Alaska Communications customers in the future.

Alaska Communications won permission from the Regulatory Commission to impose tariffs for Enhanced 911 listings for its customers across the state earlier in October. E911 is a system that links wireless callers’ phone numbers to their physical address, allowing emergency responders to get to their locations faster when communication is difficult and so emergency responders do not go to an incorrect or nonexistent address.

The tariff will add an extra $0.04 for initial listings and $0.06 for updated listings. Several entities, including the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Anchorage Police Department and the state Department of Public Safety, objected to the tariff, saying the company had no justification for implementing a tariff.

Originally, Alaska Communications requested both the additional tariffs and an hourly rate of $110.66 to correct errant listings, regardless of whose fault it was. The RCA Board of Commissioners wrote in its decision that this was unjustified and unreasonable. The company proposed to charge the hourly rate despite how long the work actually lasted and would not have an accurate record-keeping system, according to the decision.

Testimony showed that most fallout requires less than five minutes to correct, the decision states. “(Alaska Communications) should not receive the windfall of an hour’s wage for five minutes of work.”

The Fairbanks North Star Borough estimated that if the hourly rate were implemented, the borough would have to pay out $175,000 for the initial year. Without the hourly rate, the approved tariff will cost approximately $275 per year, according to a news release from the borough.

The company filed the proposed tariff with the RCA in January 2015 after the Fairbanks North Star Borough requested that the district superior court order Alaska Communications to provide daily E911 updates, according to the news release.

Alaska Communications Associate Manager of Corporate Communications Hannah Blankenship said the company continued to provide the service to the Fairbanks North Star Borough for free through June 2015 as a means to a smooth transition. When the borough asked the service be continued free of charge, the company filed the tariff with the RCA to recover the cost of providing the service, she said in an email.

“Our company has gone to great lengths to ensure a smooth transition and provide all of the information the Borough needed to make the change,” Blankenship said in an email. “We are pleased with the ruling and do not have plans to appeal.”

Alaska Communications argued that it had long been providing the listings under the contracts it negotiated with the local governments for the E911 services. When the contracts expired, the company wanted to provide the listings as a standalone service and charge the tariff for them, according to the RCA decision.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough stated in its argument that implementing the tariffs at all was unfairly passing the cost of Alaska Communications customers’ listings along to all borough residents.

“Charging the boroughs for this cost would essentially force non-ACS customers to subsidize (Alaska Communications’) cost of doing business as the boroughs pay for E911 operations with taxes and the E911 surcharge,” states the borough’s post-hearing closing brief.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough brought parts of its E911 services in-house when it changed computer systems in 2008, which ended the contract with Alaska Communications, said Colette Thompson, the borough attorney who handled the case.

“The technology was changing, the rules were changing, and we decided the accuracy rate would improve,” Thompson said.

The company originally estimated that if the tariff and the hourly rate were implemented, the borough would pay approximately $111,545 in the initial year. With only the tariff, the borough will pay approximately $249.60 for the updated listings and $1,164.60 for the initial listings, Thompson said.

Thompson said the borough did not agree with the entirety of the RCA’s decision but was pleased that the hourly rate would not pass.

Any of the parties may file an appeal within 30 days of the decision, which would fall on Nov. 9.

The borough has not yet decided whether to file an appeal, Thompson said.

 

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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