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Illinois modernizes funding of 911 call centers

From Illinois Business Journal news services

SPRINGFIELD — An overhaul that modernizes how Illinois funds its 911 call centers was signed into law Monday, the result of a yearlong review of the systems in place in the state.

State Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, sponsored the proposal, Senate Bill 96.

“There is a patchwork of more than 200 different 911 systems in the state, and there were nine counties without any system whatsoever. Our goal was to create a modern, efficient 911 system that serves both cities and rural communities equally well, and that’s what this overhaul accomplishes,” Sullivan said.

The current, aging system of funding and managing 911 services is based on use of landline phones. As more people have abandoned landlines in favor of cell phones, the state has not kept up to date.

Last year, lawmakers established the bipartisan 911 Services Advisory Board made up of small, medium and large county 911 systems, telephone companies, cell phone providers, regulators, law enforcement groups and lawmakers. After a year of review, the board’s recommendations became SB 96.

The overhaul:

· Creates a universal funding structure that targets more money to small, rural 911 centers

· Funds the development of a statewide next generation emergency phone system

· Strongly encourages 911 providers to consolidate, offering more cost-efficient service

· Ensures 911 services are available in every county

· Transfers oversight of 911 to the Illinois State Police from the Illinois Commerce Commission

The legislation also extends the rules governing telecom providers as well as the programs providing equipment for customers with hearing and speech impairments by two years, which were set to expire July 1. It also extends existing TV and phone company licenses for five years.

Senate Bill 96 was signed into law by the governor Monday and took effect immediately. It was approved in both the House and Senate with bipartisan support.

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