FCC Takes Action to Protect and Sustain Vital Service

FCC Takes Action to Protect and Sustain Vital Service for the Deaf

Commission Votes Unanimously on Immediate and Long-Term Approaches

Press release from the Federal Communications Commission, 6/28/10

Washington, DC — The Federal Communications Commission has taken two
actions to protect and ensure the sustainability of a vital service for
persons with hearing or speech disabilities. This service, called Video
Relay Service (VRS), allows persons with these disabilities to use American
Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with friends and family and to conduct
business in near real time. The Commission’s two unanimous votes – one to
begin a fresh look at the VRS program, and another that sets out how VRS
companies will be compensated during the next year while the review is
underway – will protect a program that has developed through two decades of
work initiated by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Twenty years ago, the ADA established a fund, under the FCC’s oversight, to
ensure that persons with hearing or speech disabilities could use special
telephone services at costs comparable to those that hearing people pay for
regular telephone service. Today, the VRS service supported by that fund
has become an essential part of the lives of people who have hearing or
speech disabilities.

Recently, the fund that supports VRS has been threatened on two fronts. A
number of individuals associated with VRS companies have been indicted for
fraud and abuse of the system; they appear to have generated extra revenue
from calls that were not legitimate uses of the fund. In addition, recent
data has shown that the payments from the Fund to VRS companies were on a
higher scale than the FCC intended, because they were based on cost
estimates that turned out to be far higher than VRS companies’ actual

The Commission has now set interim levels for payments to VRS companies for
the year July 2010 through June 2011. The FCC estimates that these new
compensation levels, together with steps that have been taken to reduce
fraud, will save the fund about $275 million over last year’s estimated
costs. The FCC has worked with the Department of Justice to identify
companies that may have acted fraudulently, and the number of questionable
charges has already dropped as a result. The savings from reduced fraud and
new payment levels will benefit American ratepayers, who support the fund
through charges on their telephone bills.

At the same time, the Commission has released a Notice of Inquiry asking
fundamental questions about the ways that the market for VRS should be
structured and how companies that provide VRS should be compensated.
Together, the Commission’s two actions today help put the future of VRS on a
solid and sustainable course.

“Video relay service has greatly improved life for people who are deaf or
hard of hearing and their friends and families,” said Joel Gurin, Chief of
the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the FCC, which oversees
access to communications services for persons with disabilities. “The
Commission’s actions will help ensure the continuity of this essential
service while also ensuring that ratepayers are not overcharged. The Notice
of Inquiry will begin an in-depth process to review the entire structure of
the VRS program and ensure its long-term viability.”

The Commission expects to complete the Notice of Inquiry proceeding before
Fund year 2011-12, which begins on July 1, 2011. The Commission also
adopted compensation rates for July 2010 through June 2011 for all other
forms of TRS paid from the fund.

Action by the Commission June 28, 2010, by Notice of Inquiry (FCC 10-111 )
and Order (FCC 10-115).

CG Docket 10-51
CGB Contact: Mike Jacobs at (202) 418-2859.


(Adapted from the FCC Daily Digest)
The Commission hereby adopts per-minute compensation rates from the
Interstate Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) Fund (Fund) for each form
of TRS for the 2010-2011 Fund year. These rates are based in part on options
proposed by the National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA), the Interstate
TRS Fund administrator, in filing its annual Interstate Telecommunications
Relay Services Fund Payment Formula and Fund Size Estimate for the period of
July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011. The one-year interim rates for
2010-2011 shall be:

$6.2390 for VRS Tier I
$6.2335 for VRS Tier II
$5.0668 for VRS Tier III.
$2.256 for interstate traditional TRS
$3.1566 for Speech-to-Speech (STS)
$1.6951 for Captioned Telephone Service (CTS) and Internet Protocol (IP) CTS
$1.2985 for IP Relay

proceeding to review the Commission’s video relay service (VRS) rules so
that we can ensure that this vital program is effective, efficient, and
sustainable in the future. (Dkt No. 10-51 ). Action by: the Commission.
Adopted: 06/08/2010 by NOI. (FCC No. 10-111). CGB.


compensation rates from the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Services
(TRS) Fund for each form of TRS for the 2010-2011 Fund year. (Dkt No.
03-123 ). Action by: the Commission. Adopted: 06/18/2010 by ORDER. (FCC
No. 10-115). CGB.


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