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TRS, VRS, and Captioning Issues

To: Consumer Contact List
From: Karen Peltz Strauss, RERC-TA
Re: Consumer Contact List - Various Issues
Date: June 16, 2004

It has been a while since I sent out my last update, but a lot has happened in the interim. This is a long message, containing many details to bring you all up to date.

1. CAC Meeting. The next Consumer Advisory Committee meeting will be held this Friday, June 18. The agenda for the meeting, to be held at the FCC, can be found at the URL listed below:

FINAL AGENDA FOR JUNE 18 CONSUMER ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING RELEASED. Agenda to include broadband and homeland security issues. News Release. News Media Contact: Rosemary Kimball at (202) 418-0511, email: Rosemary.Kimball@fcc.gov CGB.
Contact Scott Marshall at (202) 418-2809, email: Scott.Marshall@fcc.gov,
TTY: (202) 418-0179
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-248416A1.doc>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-248416A1.pdf>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-248416A1.txt>

2. New TRS Order. On June 10, 2004, the FCC approved a new Order addressing various issues concerning telecommunications relay services, including Internet relay services and video relay services. Here is a very brief summary of this order. I have also included links to the FCC's press release, as well as various Commissioner statements about the Order. The links to these FCC documents follow the summary.

The summary is divided into 3 parts. Although the actual text of the Order has not been released, I have divided up the issues to facilitate understanding of what the FCC intends to do:

The Order

1. Adopts a per minute cost recovery methodology for Internet Relay and the same methodology on an interim basis for VRS.

2. Extends certain waivers for VRS. These include waivers for emergency access, speed of answer, pay-per calls, and choice of long distance carrier (the latter not needed for VRS).

3. Grants Sprint's petition on 711 access/pay-per-call services.

4. Denies CSD's petition on legal interpreting (CSD had argued that handling legal interpreting through VRS denies deaf consumers their right to adequate interpreting services in judicial situations).

5. Dismisses a petition submitted for HOVRS to become certified as a VRS provider.

6. Rejects cost recovery for non-shared language VRS. This denies Spanish speaking people the ability to use VRS to communicate with ASL users.

7. Rejects proposals to order a national TRS outreach campaign, but directs CGB to increase its own outreach.

Petitions for Reconsideration

1. Denies petitions for reconsideration of CGB's VRS Interim Rate Order - Although these petitions were denied, after receiving supplemental information about the rate from providers, the FCC has decided to increase the VRS rate to $8.854 retroactively (up from $7.75) for the period from September 1, 2003 through June 30, 2004.

2. Denies TDI's petition for reconsideration of the coin sent paid rules. TDI had argued for a rule that required telephone companies to charge no more than the coin rate for relay calls made with credit cards and calling cards at payphones. The FCC said there does not need to be cost parity for relay calls made from payphones.

3. Responds to petitions on routing of emergency calls to appropriate PSAPs - it is unclear what the FCC did on this point - we need to wait for the final Order to understand this part of the order.

FNPRM - The FCC asks for comment on the following:

1. Whether IP and VRS should be made mandatory services, provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

2. Whether there should be a specific speed of answer for VRS.

3. Whether cost recovery for VRS should be based on a per minute or some other type of methodology.

4. How the FCC should determine recovery of the costs of VRS and IP with respect to intra- versus interstate calls - i.e., whether there should be an allocation among the states and NECA to reimburse these calls.

5. Whether other rules that currently apply to TRS should also apply to VRS - e.g., whether the 10 minute rule should apply to VRS; also asks about issues concerning abuse of CAs.

6. Whether compensation for VRS should be determined on a one year or two year basis.

7. Whether there should be different rates for IP versus traditional TRS.

8. Whether there should be certification of IP providers by the FCC (this one was a bit unclear - we need to see this in the final text).

9. Whether the composition and authority of NECA's advisory council should be changed.

Although all of the Commissioners voted to approve the item as a whole, Commissioners Copps and Adelstein dissented from two of the issues. These were:

1. Non-shared language VRS. Copps pointed out that the Latino community is the fastest growing minority in the U.S. and Adelstein noted that 40% of the 40 million Latino Americans that live in the U.S. speak little or no English at all. They both said that the FCC should keep up with the FCC's trend to make sure communication services are available to this community.

2. June 2003 CGB Order. Both Commissioner Copps and Adelstein dissented from the FCC's decision to uphold CGB's June 2003 Interim VRS Order. Copps said that the Bureau's abrupt decision to slash in half the rate with less than 24 hours notice resulted in fewer hours and worsened service. He said that what the Bureau did was without precedent and should not be affirmed by the Commission. Adelstein said that when the TRS compensation rate was reduced by 50%, there was an outcry by consumers because providers had to cut service, let employees go and reduce the quality of VRS. He said there were legitimate questions about the substance and process of what the bureau did.

Copps also talked about the need for more outreach. He said that if CGB did not do enough to provide outreach, the FCC should reconsider using NECA funds to get the job done.

As for the other Commissioners, they had little to say, other than to support the full Order. Martin did mention that it was appropriate to get input from industry on what should go into cost recovery. Abernathy talked about how CGB should do extensive outreach through fact sheets and web-based resources. She said there was no authority or resources to fund a national television campaign. Abernathy also said that the FCC has an obligation to make sure providers can recover their costs, but that if there are "abuses of funding" this program, then they have to take care of that. She said there was no authority for a mark-up of ordinary expenses, and was hopeful that the FNPRM would clear up matters regarding cost recovery. She also said she was glad that the FCC was asking about making VRS mandatory, but said that it looks like the numbers may go higher than regular TRS and that there was concern about there not being enough interpreters to support this trend. Powell said that the FCC will continue to look into issues involving the disability community in the future.

FCC TAKES FURTHER STEPS TOWARD FULFILLING GOALS OF ADA BY REFINING RULES GOVERNING PROVISION OF TRS. The FCC has taken the latest in a series of steps to ensure that consumers with hearing and speech disabilities have convenient and affordable access to telephone services through use of the telecommunications relay services (TRS). News Release. Adopted: 06/10/2004. (FCC No. 04-137). News Media Contact: Rosemary Kimball at (202) 418-0511,
email: Rosemary.Kimball@fcc.gov CGB. Contact Gregory Hlibok at (202) 418-0431 (TTY);
e-mail: gregory.Hlibok@fcc.gov

3. HIPAA Notice. The FCC has issued a public notice clarifying that doctors and other medical establishments can communicate with patients through relay services without violating HIPAA, a law designed to protect patient privacy. The URL is below:

Released: 06/16/2004. CLARIFICATION OF THE USE OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS RELAY SERVICES (TRS) AND THE HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT (HIPAA). (DA No. 04-1716). CGB. Contact: Traci Randolph at (202) 418-0569, email: Traci.Randolph@fcc.gov, TTY: (202)418-0537
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1716A1.doc>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1716A1.pdf>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1716A1.txt>

4. Annual Complaint Summary. On July 1, 2004, TRS providers and states must submit their annual summary of consumer complaints received on TRS. The FCC has issued a public notice to remind providers and states of their obligation to submit this document:

Released: 06/02/2004. CONSUMER & GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS BUREAU REMINDS STATES AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS RELAY SERVICES (TRS) PROVIDERS THAT THE ANNUAL SUMMARY OF CONSUMER COMPLAINTS CONCERNING TRS IS DUE THURSDAY, JULY 1, 2004. (DA No. 04-1599). CGB. Contact: Erica Myers at (202)418-2429, TTY: (202) 418-0464,
email: Erica.Myers@fcc.gov
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1599A1.doc>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1599A1.pdf>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1599A1.txt>

5. Quarterly Report on Inquiries and Complaints. CGB has posted its quarterly report on consumer complaints and inquiries, which includes matters raised by people with disabilities:

QUARTERLY REPORT ON INFORMAL CONSUMER INQUIRIES AND COMPLAINTS RELEASED. The Commission has released its report on the inquiries and complaints processed by the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau during the fourth quarter of calendar year 2003. News Release. News Media Contact: Rosemary Kimball at (202) 418-0511, email: Rosemary.Kimball@fcc.gov CGB. Contact Thomas Wyatt at (202) 418-1400
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-248288A1.doc>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-248288A1.pdf>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-248288A1.txt>

6. TTY E911 Extensions. The FCC has granted two temporary extensions of time for compliance with its order requiring digital wireless services to be accessible to TTYs. These are attached, and the URLs are below:

NOW Licenses, LLC and Dobson Cellular Systems Inc. filed separate petitions for temporary waiver of section 20.18(c) of the Federal Communications Commission's rules (extension of time to comply with the text telephone devices rule).

These temporary waivers have been granted in orders released by the Commission on June 10, 2004. These orders can be viewed in their entirety at:

http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2004/db0614/DA-04-1697A1.doc (NOW Licenses, LLC) AND

http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2004/db0614/DA-04-1696A1.doc (Dobson Cellular Systems, Inc.)

7. Requests for Captioning Exemptions. Three more requests for exemptions from the closed captioning rules have been filed:

Released: 06/04/2004. REQUEST FOR EXEMPTION FROM COMMISSION'S CLOSED CAPTIONING RULES. (DA No. 04-1625) CSR 6296. MB. Contact: Sonia Greenaway-Mickle or Steve Garner at (202) 418-7200, TTY: (202) 418-7172
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1625A1.doc>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1625A1.pdf>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1625A1.txt> Released: 06/04/2004.

REQUEST FOR EXEMPTION FROM COMMISSION'S CLOSED CAPTIONING RULES. (DA No. 04-1627) CSR 6310. MB. Contact: Sonia Greenaway-Mickle or Steve Garner at (202) 418-7200,
TTY: (202) 418-7172
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1627A1.doc>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1627A1.pdf>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1627A1.txt> Released: 06/04/2004.

REQUEST FOR EXEMPTION FROM COMMISSION'S CLOSED CAPTIONING RULES. (DA No. 04-1626) CSR 6298. MB. Contact: Sonia Greenaway-Mickle or Steve Garner at (202) 418-7200,
TTY: (202) 418-7172
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1626A1.doc>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1626A1.pdf>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-1626A1.txt>


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