Telecommunications Relay Service

Every state is required by law to provide a telecommunications relay service, which enables people with special telecommunications needs to communicate with others. An example is the “standard” relay service of facilitating communications between a deaf person using a TTY and a hearing person using a normal voice phone.

We are fortunate to be living in these times, when we are beginning to see specialized relay services, in addition to the basic service.

October 2000 – One cool specialized service is Video Relay, which allows the deaf person to sign to the relay provider, rather than using a TTY.

November 2000 – How about all these new telecommunications services – things like caller ID, optional calling plans, 900 numbers. Can I use them with the relay service? The ALDACON 2000  Telecomm Shopping for the Millennium tells you everything you want to know about these issues.

June 2003 – In a move that the hearing loss community widely applauded, the FCC recently voted to improve the state relay services. We’re also waiting with baited breath for their pending ruling on hearing aid compatible (HAC) wireless phones. Here’s the story.

July 2004 – You’ve probably already heard the rave reviews for the CapTel system. But did you know that Sprint is providing free CapTel phones for Federal Relay Users?

September 2005 – Communications continues to get easier for people with hearing loss. Now you can access IP relay from AOL’s instant messaging software!

October 2004 – Interested in making relay calls from your pager? Here’s how you can!

November 2004 – The FCC is considering whether the existing relay exemption for three-way calling should be renewed.

November 2005 – The FCC is considering two new regulations concerning captioned telephones. One would mandate that all state relay services include captioned telephones; the other would establish a Internet-based captioned telephone program. 

January 2006 – Long Distance CapTel Calls Are No Longer Free

February 2006 – Relay Service Warns Potential Victims of Fraud

February 2006 – Here’s Cheryl Heppner’s report on the IP Relay Panel held at the 2005 TDI Conference.

FCC Seeks Comments on Waived TRS Services

November 2004

Editor: Relay providers are currently exempted from a requirement that they provide three-way calling for people using the service. This exemption will expire on February 24, 2005, and the FCC is considering whether or not the exemption should be renewed. Comments are due by December 17.

Here are a few paragraphs from the announcement. For more information, or to learn how to comment, please contact Dana Jackson, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Disability Rights Office, at (202) 418-2247 (voice), (202) 418-7898 (TTY), or e-mail at Dana.Jackson@fcc.gov .

On February 24, 2005, the one-year waiver of the requirement that TRS providers (including providers of captioned telephone service) offer three-way calling will expire. The Commission seeks comment on whether TRS providers will be able to offer this feature as of that date, or whether it is necessary to extend this waiver. We also seek comment on whether, instead of a waiver, the requirement might be modified or clarified and, if so, how.

In the June 17, 2003, Second Improved TRS Order & NPRM the Commission required that TRS providers offer 3-way calling as a standard feature of TRS. In the August 1, 2003, Captioned Telephone Order we recognized captioned telephone service as a type of TRS. That order did not waive the requirement that providers of captioned telephone service offer a three-way calling feature.

On September 24, 2003, AT&T Corp. (AT&T) filed a petition for limited reconsideration of the Second Improved TRS Order & NPRM. AT&T requested that the Commission waive the three-way calling requirement adopted in the Second Improved TRS Order & NPRM. AT&T asserted that it was not possible for the TRS facility to set up a three-way call, subject to clarification regarding how three-way calling may be provided in compliance with the Commission’s TRS regulations. On December 11, 2003, Ultratec, Inc. and Sprint Corporation filed a petition seeking clarification that the three-way calling requirement either does not apply to captioned telephone service or that a TRS provider complies with the rule regardless of the method used to set up the three-way call.

On February 24, 2004, in response to these petitions, the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau released an order waiving for one year the requirement that TRS providers (including providers of captioned telephone service) offer three-way calling.

Interstate Long Distance Relay Calls No Longer Free

Editor: People with hearing loss have enjoyed free interstate long distance calling through the relay service for years, but that free service will soon end! MCI is ending free interstate long distance calls for California relay users effective January 12. It appears that other relay providers, including CapTel providers, will soon be taking similar actions. Note that intrastate (within state) relay calls through the California relay service will continue to be free.

Here’s the notice from MCI.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ruled that the offering of free interstate long distance service to TRS consumers is an impermissible financial incentive. Accordingly, effective January 12, 2006, MCI CRS will no longer provide free interstate long distance service.

For CRS consumers, the practical effect of this change is limited to one type of call – interstate long distance calls (e.g., calls from a  California number to a number in another state):

* Connecting to MCI CRS will continue to be free-of-charge.

* Intrastate long distance calls (calls from a  California number to a California number) via MCI CRS and MCI service will continue to be free.

* Calling parties will be billed for interstate long distance calls via MCI CRS and MCI service.

For further information on the FCC ruling see:

http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/headlines.html or

http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-05-2066A1.pdf

Long Distance CapTel Calls No Longer Free

January 2006

Editor: You may have seen recent reports that long distance calls placed to or from a CapTel phone are no longer free. This regulation went into effect on January 12.

Note that CapTel users must inform CapTel of their choice of long distance providers. They will not use your provider of choice until you notify them!

I’m disturbed by how this situation was handled. The FCC ruling that mandated this change was released in July of 2005, so it’s not a new idea. But I don’t recall seeing anything about this change until the day the changes went into effect. And I still have seen very little coverage of these new regulations.

One of the few reports I did see was from Brenda Kelly-Frey, the Director of the Maryland Relay. She sent the following report and asked me to share it with our readers.

Effective January 12, 2006, a new regulation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires that any long distance charges associated with your CapTel phone must be billed to the caller. This means, if you make a long distance captioned call on your CapTel phone (or if you are calling a CapTel user and the call is long distance), any long distance charges will be billed to your local telephone number.

The long distance provider you have chosen for your home service is NOT automatically applied to CapTel calls. You must contact CapTel Customer Service <http://www.captionedtelephone.com/contact-us.phtml> to have charges billed through your long distance company in addition to any long distance company you may have chosen for your home phone line. If you have any questions when you receive your phone bill, please contact your local phone service provider.

Letting operators warn potential victims curbs fraud, deaf service says

February 2006

In November, Communication Service for the Deaf implemented a new policy aimed at cracking down on the fraud that plagued Internet-based relay service for the deaf. Because the Federal Communications Commission requires that calls placed through the relay system be as private as other telephone calls, communication assistants were obligated to repeat, word for word, what overseas scam artists said as they bilked American companies out of thousands of dollars in merchandise. CSD’s solution: It allowed relay supervisors to warn potential victims. 

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