Static on the Line?

Did you ever take a really close look at your phone bill?

Chances are there are about a dozen little charges for lines, taxes and surcharges that you never heard of. One of the surcharges tacked on to cell-phone bills in New York State is for upgrading 911 service. Since the tax was introduced in 1991, the state has collected $440 million. But The New York Times just discovered that only $30 million of that amount is actually spent on upgrading cellular 911 service.

Of the $1.20 New Yorkers spend on this surcharge every month, the biggest chunk -- 50 cents -- goes to the state’s general fund, from which politicians spend on whatever they want.

Twenty-four cents goes to State Police, which has used the money for things like travel and dry cleaning.

Thirty-four cents goes for “Homeland Security,” which has been broadly interpreted to include funding of Parks and Recreation.

And only 12 cents out of the $1.20 goes specifically for upgrading the cellular 911 service.

Meanwhile, one of the main goals of the surcharge -- to locate cell-phone callers who could not give their location -- has been lagging. One of four teens whose boat sank in New York harbor a year ago managed to make a brief call to 911. But the call couldn’t be traced and all the teens drowned.

So next time you get your phone bill, check out the little charges. They could add up to fraud.

And that’s the Asman Observer.