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Bill to Deregulate 911 Service Advances in Senate

Senate Bill 183 would deregulate the state's 911 service by stripping oversight from the Public Utilities Commission. (Pixabay)
Senate Bill 183 would deregulate the state's 911 service by stripping oversight from the Public Utilities Commission. (Pixabay)
April 18, 2016

DENVER - A last-minute bill making its way through the Colorado Senate would deregulate the state's 9-1-1 service by stripping oversight authority from the Public Utilities Commission, or PUC.

Bill Levis is the lead advocacy volunteer with AARP Colorado. He says when you dial 9-1-1, you should be connected to police, fire and paramedics. But with no local oversight, Levis says your call might go through, or you might get an "all circuits are busy" message.

"And that's the big concern," says Levis. "Because with deregulation, consumers only have the option of changing carriers. You can't change providers when a loved one is sick and needs an ambulance or your house is on fire."

In January, almost 145,000 Lakewood residents lost 9-1-1 service for more than three hours, according to testimony by the city's police communications supervisor at a recent PUC hearing.

Levis says no one would have known about the outage without commission oversight. Proponents say Senate Bill 183 is needed to clarify laws passed in 2014, and the PUC would still regulate calls after they reach an aggregate center.

Levis says the measure would let telecom companies off the hook for making sure calls get to those aggregators. He adds even though all telephone bills include a specific 9-1-1 fee, consumers would have no place to file complaints if calls don't go through.

"They still need someplace to complain should their 911 service not work and that is the Public Utilities Commission," Levis says. "Without the Public Utilities Commission, there would be no oversight of 911 even though we all pay a specific fee for the service every month."

The bill, sponsored by Republican Mark Scheffel of Douglas County and Democrat Andy Kerr of Lakewood, is expected to clear the Senate and move to the House this week.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO