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Logan officials debate 911 texting service

LOGAN, W.Va. — Texting to 911 seems like a great option… unless you live in southern West Virginia, where texting is not an option for many citizens because of the lack of cellular service.

Verizon Wireless, which is the only company that provides the text-to-911 service, covers 97 percent of the country. Unfortunately, southern W.Va. is still severely lacking in this area. A coverage map shows just how severe the problem is: red marks places that are able to receive enough cellular service to send or receive text messages, but Logan County is only speckled with a few, tiny dots.

Would an investment in the text-to-911 system be worth the cost in Logan?

Cost of the new system varies greatly depending on the population it will serve, but for Logan an estimated cost is between $35,000 and $50,000. At this point, Vermont is the only state to pass the system on a state-level. The total one-time cost for their population of 626,011 citizens was $2,105,000 with a quarterly recurring costs of $469,327 for system maintenance, monitoring, support, upgrades, and data services.

West Virginia’s population is over double that of Vermont’s with 1.8 million citizens.

New Generation 911 cost elements may include:

• Broadband connectivity

• ESInet deployment

• New or upgraded CPE to handle multimedia 911 communications (e.g., text, data, video)

• New system data capabilities (e.g., GIS-based location)

• Personnel/training

County Commissioner Danny Ellis says he understands the idea for this upgrade, but it may not be economically feasible for Logan County because of the lack of cellular service.

“The idea is great, but we have to look at it from the economic perspective as well,” said Ellis. “Most of the folks in our county don’t have access to cellular data. Yeah, it would be great if someone kidnapped you and you could text 911 from the back of the car. But around here, what is the likelihood that the person will be able to get a text to send? We have to look at those elements as commissioners…

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