Mayor appreciates gesture from wireless providers

NANAIMO - CWTA returns $22,000 city lost in court ruling to impose 911 call levy on wireless providers.

In a goodwill gesture, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and its wireless partners are donating $22,000 to the City of Nanaimo to support the mid-Island 911 emergency operations.

In November 2010, Nanaimo city council passed the country’s first bylaw requiring cellphone providers to collect a levy from its customers to assist in paying for the central Island 911 service.

The move would have saved Nanaimo taxpayers more than $500,000, and for wireless providers that did not adhere to the levy, the bylaw called for a $30 tax per call to 911 from a cellphone.

In August 2011, cellphone providers Telus Communications, Rogers Communication and Bell Mobility filed a petition through the CWTA, challenging the city’s ability to impose a levy on an industry governed by federal regulations.

Last July, the Supreme Court of B.C. sided with the wireless providers. In his reason for judgment, Justice William Ehrcke said the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission regulates the industry’s billing requirements, and it does not require wireless service providers to participate in any 911 levy.

CWTA and the wireless providers were awarded legal costs of $22,000 from the City of Nanaimo as part of the decision.

It is those costs the CWTA, Telus, Bell and Rogers are returning.

“Our goal in determining what role wireless carriers can play in ensuring that 911 call centres are properly funded was never about costs,” said CWTA president and CEO Bernard Lord, in a release. “Canada’s wireless industry looks forward to working with the provincial government in coming up with a solution that will benefit the public safety community across the province and keep British Columbians safe.”

Mayor John Ruttan said the city appreciates the gesture.