The Waukesha County emergency dispatch center has become the first in the state with the ability to locate 911 calls placed with cell phones. The Milwaukee Police Department hopes to have such a system in place early next year.
But many other Wisconsin communities may not be so lucky.
There is concern that rural counties may never install such upgrades because of the costs.
``It's up to the counties to decide, and we're afraid a lot of communities won't elect to do this. Money is tight right now,'' said David Sleeter, Rock County communications director and president of Wisconsin's chapter of the National Emergency Number Association.
Experts say 2.5 million Wisconsinites will be cell phone users by next year. In many areas, especially in the the southeastern part of the state, cell callers already represent half of the 911 calls.
The Federal Communications Commission requires cell phone providers to offer the improved 911 capability. But each emergency dispatch center must decide whether to use the technology. The companies have six months to get the service running after communities ask for it.
Counties can get partial reimbursement for such upgrade under a measure signed by Gov. Jim Doyle. But many are waiting for a reimbursement estimate by the Public Service Commission before taking any action, Sleeter said.
That means many communities probably would not have the new system before 2006, he said.
``It's a dilemma for many communities, because you need the money up front,'' he said. ``What's holding people back is funding and the reimbursement process.''
Sleeter said he and other emergency dispatch personnel are worried the costs might be too high for some communities.
``We should all be doing this for one reason - so when people call 911 on a cell phone and can't tell us where they are we can find their location,'' he said. ``But I'm just afraid that is not going to be the case.''
In July, Rock County settled a lawsuit brought by a woman who was repeatedly raped over eight hours in her Janesville apartment after calling 911 with her cell phone.
Police couldn't respond because the dispatcher didn't have the women's address and couldn't determine her location.