Associated Press Writer

CARSON CITY (AP) -- A bill preventing telephone companies from shutting off 911 access when disconnecting service faced opposition Tuesday from the telephone industry, local governments and police agencies.

Representatives for the groups told the Assembly Government Affairs Committee that AB276 would lead to higher rates for telephone subscribers and higher expenses for local governments which operate 911 and other emergency phone services.

Advocates for the bill argued it's unfair for phone companies to terminate services just because someone -- typically the poor and elderly -- can't afford to pay a bill. They also said the measure will help save lives.

But Marcia Cobian, executive director of the Nevada Telephone Association, said AB276 would require telephone companies to reprogram their switchboards and add new costly cables and wiring.

``Technology costs are our main concerns,'' Ms. Cobian said. ``There will be some increases (in costs) but we don't know what they are.''

Pat Coward, speaking on behalf of the Nevada Association of Counties and the Nevada League of Cities, said the bill amounts to an unfunded mandate on local governments because they'll have to spend more tax dollars to meet the proposed emergency service requirements.

Lobbyists for the Las Vegas and Reno police departments said they oppose the bill because it would be impossible to trace bogus 911 calls coming from a disconnected phone lines. They said it cost a lot of money to respond to fake 911 calls.

After the hearing, Brian Herr, a spokesman for Nevada Bell, said the telephone company would raise its subscription rates to pay for any extra costs if they're forced to continue the 911 service.

``It's technologically possible to do it, but it's costly,'' Herr said. ``Remember, if we provide the service we aren't generating any revenue.''

But advocates called on the telephone industry and other opponents to put compassion for the needy above profit.

``This bill shows the general public that they (telephone companies) do have a care and a obligation to their customers,'' said Assemblyman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas. ``Seniors on fixed incomes are the people most vulnerable and need emergency access.''

Thomas Grayson, a paramedic with the Las Vegas Fire Department, said that ``911 is a service that should never be interrupted under any terms.''

Assemblyman Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, a committee member and a paramedic, said he can recall incidents in which people died because they didn't have access to 911 service after it was turned off.

``I found people dead at the doorsteps of neighbors who didn't answer the door (to help them),'' Nolan said. ``I believe this is something that we do need.''

AP-WS-03-21-95 2125EST

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