News TR Daily

By Ted Gotsch, May 18th, 2006

In comments filed with the FCC this week in Consumer & Government Affairs Docket 03-123, several companies and groups said that the proposed 8% rate cut recommended by NECA at a time when the Commission is requiring service upgrades for VRS so companies can comply with new speed-of-answer rules and the allowing of consumers to call the interpreters of any provider could have a "chilling effect" on the industry that would be felt by those in the deaf community.

"The NECA rate recommendation threatens the availability of quality communications services for the deaf and will stifle the innovation and growth of fledgling VRS technologies," said Pat Nola, Sorenson Communications, Inc.'s chief executive officer. "FCC commissioners have been stalwart in their support of communications services for the deaf under the Americans with Disabilities Act; we trust the FCC will continue to ensure quality VRS offerings by rejecting NECA's woefully inadequate proposed rate."

Cheryl Parrino, the former chairman of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, outlined her concerns in a declaration accompanying Sorenson's filing, stating, "NECA inappropriately eliminated funding for educational outreach and marketing, and failed to account for rising costs associated with projections of increased demand. Rejecting these NECA revisions adds approximately 93 cents to the NECA recommended rate."

A filing by Hands On Video Relay Services, Inc., states that NECA's rate recommendations mark a significant reversal on past policy and threaten the ability of providers to offer quality service to consumers. "NECA cuts funds for outreach and advertising necessary to inform the deaf community about the availability of the service and eliminated funding for certified deaf interpreters which are necessary to achieve effective communications in certain circumstances," the company said.

Hamilton Relay, Inc., also disagreed with NECA's recommendations, saying marketing and advertising are necessary to achieve relay outreach goals. "Hamilton believes that the [Telecommunications Relay Service] Fund administrator's arbitrary recommendation to exclude all marketing and advertising costs from all relay services was procedurally and substantively in error, and that such costs should be included in the cost formula."

Meanwhile, four deaf advocacy groups asked the Commission "to ensure that the compensation rates for TRS are at a level that would satisfy the FCC's obligations under the ADA, including true functional equivalence in services and strong outreach to those deaf and hard of hearing individuals who do not yet have access to all forms of TRS."

From The TR Daily. Reprinted with permission. Back to Article List