New FCC Rate Regime Prioritizes Cost Reductions Over Quality of Service for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing
According to the FCC, Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) is a telephone service that allows persons with hearing or speech disabilities to place and receive telephone calls. TRS is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories for local and/or long distance calls. TRS providers – generally telephone companies – are compensated for the costs of providing TRS from either a state or a federal fund. There is no cost to the TRS user.
To learn more about TRS, visit the FCC’s website: www.fcc.gov
Between February 21, 2013 and March 8, 2013, the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Telecommunications Access (RERC-TA) at Gallaudet University conducted a brief survey.
Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) filed comments on February 26, 2013 with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in their proceeding on captioned telephones. The FCC is alarmed that usage of IP CTS (Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Services) has risen dramatically. They are concerned that the fund which serves all Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) will run short this year if they do not do something immediately.
The Equal Rights Center recently published the report titled, Disconnected: Housing Discrimination Against the Deaf & Hard of Hearing.
The report’s Executive Summary:
In the United States, more than nine million individuals identify as Deaf or hard of hearing, and approximately 2.1 million individuals identify as having a speech impairment. Many of these individuals rely on a Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) to communicate by telephone. TRS is a term that encompasses a variety of technologies that facilitate telephone conversations for individuals with hearing or speech disabilities, including internet, video, and sign language systems. For many such individuals, TRS is a lifeline to government services, medical care, employment, and housing. TRS is a particularly useful tool when seeking rental housing, in that many prospective tenants contact housing providers by telephone to obtain critical threshold information about apartment availability, rental rates, and the application process.
In their Report and Order released June 29, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules that prohibit the temporary authorization of IP Relay users, other than emergency callers. All new users must have a verified registration and eligibility information on file before a service provider may issue a 10-digit number providing access to IP Relay.
Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) is concerned about an alarming trend among state legislatures. Some states are redirecting money collected for the state telecommunications relay services (TRS or Relay Services) fund for purposes other than supporting Relay Services. These funds are collected via a surcharge on the phone bills of state residents. The stated purpose for that surcharge is to support captioned telephone services, Voice Carry Over, TTY and Hearing Carry-Over services provided by the state Relay Service. (Internet-Protocol (IP) Relay and Video Relay Services (VRS) are not covered under this fund.)
Washington, D.C. – As part of its ongoing efforts to ensure that the video relay service (VRS) continues to provide a crucial telecommunications link for people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing, the Commission today adopted rules designed to eliminate the waste, fraud and abuse that has plagued the VRS program and had threatened its ability to continue serving Americans who use it and its long-term viability.
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Commission established a National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP) to enable low-income individuals who are deaf-blind to access 21st Century communications services. The pilot program will help ensure that qualified individuals have access to the Internet, and advanced communications, including interexchange services and advanced telecommunications and information services.
Captioned phones are not available to everyone who needs that service. HLAA recently heard from consumers in Delaware who were distressed that they live in the last state to adopt captioned phone services.
Read more on the Public Policy and Advocacy blog.