The costs of emergency calls..

20 07 2009

iphone-unlocking-activationy-w-50504-3From the few solutions that we proposed, we’ve chosen to provide cellphones for sex trade workers, so that they can call 911 if they ever gotten into dangerous situations. And we’ve planned to collect used phones as part of the pilot program. So that we can donate them to organizations that can help us with the program. Now the decision has been made, off we went to find information.

Some time last week, I dropped by some cellphone service providers in the mall to find out what our options are. I thought, a 911 calls only should not cost too much, given they charge me 50 cents every month for what they call “911 Emergency Access Fee”, thought I don’t know what that means. Shouldn’t we all be able to call 911 no matter what, despite locations or a given time of the day, unless the phone is out of battery? Anyway, it costs me 50 cents a month to call 911, maybe it’s a little different for everyone, depending on what providers they are on.

Provider #1: I went to Bell asking about “emergency only phone plans”. Their cheapest plan starts at $15 a month, before taxes.  No system access fees and FREE 911 emergency calling fees. You’ll get a free phone if you signed a  2-year contract. I explained to the representative, that I will not be needing any text messages, or even air time (that’s the minutes we use to make calls), only for 911 calls. And she suggested their Prepaid plan. The lowest plan offered was again $15, but I’ll have to pay for the phone, which costs $75. And the funds expire after 45 days, unless I keep topping it up. And due to the platform they use (CDMA), we can’t just use any phones and pop a SIM card in, we will need to get their phones or compatible phones from the same provider.

Provider #2: Rogers, same question. They use a different platform (GSM) from Bell, that allows us to be more flexible with the phones. We can get any phones that use SIM card, pop a SIM card in, and voila! you can make phone calls right away. It costs $40 for the SIM card and that’s not including any credit. And again, there’s an expiry period attach to it, unless you’re willing to pay for a $100 credit which will be good for a year.

Provider #3: I went to Koodo, another one with CDMA platform. The phone costs at least $75. No contract involved, the lowest monthly plan costs $15. And he said I’ll get FREE 911 calls included too.

Provider #4: Fido. Offers a $10/month prepaid plan if you set up an automatic top-up service, with the phone costs from $65. A 50 cents charge for 911 access fees will be deducted automatically every month.

So 911 calls aren’t free after all. With a cheaper service you’ll have to pay for it. Only with more expensive services you’ll get them for free.  But if compared to the price of lives that we can save, 50 cents is well worth it, isn’t it? And here’s our challenge: to raise money to get us started with the phone plans.