May 25, 2016 (Lansing) – The state’s leading small business organization, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), today urged the Senate Commerce Committee to extend the deadline on a rule that would force many small businesses to throw out and replace their existing phone systems.
Under the little known rule, any “facility” with more than 7000 square feet of space and a multi-line phone system would be required to scrap their phones and buy a new system before the end of this year if it didn’t meet new 911 requirements. Senate Bill 878, sponsored by State Senator Mike Shirkey, would extend the date to comply with the rule to the end of 2019.
With most existing multi-line phone systems (MLTS/PBX systems), an outgoing call to a 911 emergency operator indicates the street location where the call is coming from. The new Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) rule requires that the phone system give the 911 operator more precise information that would include the actual location within the building, such as a specific office or conference room for example, in addition to the street location of the business.
“Since many existing multi-line phone systems do not have this capability, small businesses would be required to replace them with newer systems – even if the existing phone system meets the current needs of the business owner,” said NFIB State Director Charlie Owens. “Replacing a typical multi line phone system can run into the thousands of dollars in addition to the time and expense for installation and training on a new system.”
Owens said that the original rule was written to apply to larger facilities with more than 40,000 square feet, but during the rules process the square footage threshold was lowered to 7,000 square feet. Business locations that own MLTS/PBX systems, but are unable to meet the deadline of December 31, 2016 for compliance may be assessed a fine from $500.00 to $5,000.00 per offense.
“While we do not dispute the public safety benefits of this rule change, many small businesses will respond by switching over to cheaper cell phone alternatives to avoid the rule thus exacerbating the problem of locating the source of the call and diminishing public safety even further”, said Owens. “In addition to the challenges this rule change is creating for affected facilities, it is also doubtful that all of the 911 regions participating in this upgrade will have a universal ability to interface with the new phone systems by the deadline of December 31, 2016.
Owens said that NFIB and other stakeholders are willing to work towards addressing this rule change and the problems it will create for small business, but the deadline date of December 31 of this year is unrealistic.