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The FCC Staff Members Were Reviewing Your Comments

On Friday, June 29, 2007, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order freezing the existing VRS rate for the short term while it continued to work on creating a new rate plan for VRS.  Because of the overwhelming response from the Deaf community, the FCC was encouraged to keep an adequate VRS rate in place while the FCC spent more time on this very important matter while they considered the needs of the Deaf community. 
In the past, the FCC announced a new VRS rate each July 1 for the coming year.  In 2007, the FCC worked on a plan that would establish a reasonable VRS rate for several years. 
Listed below are various ASL videos and information explaining the critical issues as they relate to VRS and the reimbursement rate. It is important to note that a three-year reimbursement rate will encourage providers to make the necessary investments to provide VRS to more Deaf individuals and to improve the service.

 

You Can Help Ensure Quality VRS Services by Getting Involved

The potential cutbacks are so severe some providers might choose to stop providing VRS service and others could drastically cut back their service.
The drastic rate reductions would create:

  • Cutbacks in outreach programs designed to make VRS available to more deaf individuals
  • Cutbacks in interpreter training programs
  • Cutbacks in service and technology improvements or enhancements, such as the development of new videophone equipment
  • Cutbacks in the willingness of VRS providers to enroll new customers and install videophone equipment

The VRS rate must be set to encourage VRS providers:

  • To offer VRS service to the more than 90% of deaf people who currently lack VRS
  • To train more interpreters so that there will be an adequate number of qualified interpreters for VRS and the local Deaf communities
The FCC is asking for comments from the Deaf community, which must be sent by June 2007.

What You Can Do Now:

Send an email to the FCC.
Click here to send your email message to the FCC (this link includes FCC email addresses and sample email text you can use.) (Click here if you use an online email account such as hotmail, yahoo, or gmail).

Click here if you are hearing (i.e. interpreter, hearing parent of a deaf/hard-of-hearing child, etc.) to send your email message to the FCC (this link includes FCC email addresses and sample email text you can use)  (Click here if you use an online email account such as hotmail, yahoo, or gmail).

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Or Write a Letter to the FCC.
You can write your own message or just copy and paste the text below—insert your own name:

RE: CG Docket No. 03-123
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
445 Twelfth Street SW
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Martin, Commissioners Adelstein, Copps, McDowell, and Tate:

I am a deaf person and I use Video Relay Service (VRS) to communicate.  I was appalled to learn that the FCC staff is intent on drastically cutting the VRS rate, and effectively cutting VRS availability for the deaf. Instead of seeking to limit the number of deaf people with VRS access, the FCC should do everything in its power to make VRS available to more deaf people. 

I, along with other Deaf individuals, use these services in both my work and personal life.  It is an important way in which I/we communicate with both hearing and deaf individuals.  I urge you to do everything you can to make VRS service available to the many deaf people who currently do not have access to this vital, life-changing service.

The VRS rate should encourage the VRS providers to:

  • Serve more deaf people, not discourage them from reaching out to more deaf people
  • Provide interpreter training programs so that there will be an adequate number of qualified interpreters for VRS and the local Deaf communities
  • Provide service and technology improvements, such as the development of new videophone equipment, fulfilling the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandate of functionally equivalent telecommunications services

I, along with other deaf individuals, their families and coworkers, depend on VRS and other relay services.

Please stop any VRS program cuts and fulfill the mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide deaf people with functionally equivalent telecommunications services.

Sincerely,

[Insert Your Name Here]

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Request a Postcard

Click here to request a pre-paid postcard be sent to you. You can then sign the card and send it to the FCC.
 
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Forward this information to a Friend.
To help spread the word, select the “forward to a friend” link below to type a short message and send them link to this Web page.

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Stay Informed
Visit this page often for regular updates on what you can do to ensure the future of VRS.
Here is more information about the VRS rate issue.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency administering the VRS program, is setting new rates in 2007 and is considering drastic budget cuts.

In 2006, the Deaf community and VRS users like you overwhelmed the FCC with complaints about cutting the VRS rate and you made a difference.  Because of your quick actions the FCC froze the current rate and VRS users have benefited with:

  • Two new videophones with additional features
  • More VRS options with additional VRS providers
  • Improved 911 capabilities
  • Videophone interoperability
  • Spanish VRS availability
  • Shorter interpreter hold times with stricter speed of answer requirements
  • Greater VRS service reliability
  • More deaf consumers have access to VRS

Fair VRS rates ensure that:

1.  Equivalent access is available for all deaf individuals
2.  High quality VRS services are available
3.  Professional interpreters are hired and adequately trained
4.  Technology innovation is encouraged


The Problem
The FCC is considering proposals that could greatly reduce the amount of money spent on telecom services for the deaf community. These include:
    Cutting funding for outreach, which is the most effective way the deaf community learns about VRS technology and providers.
      - To take away funding for VRS education is inconsistent with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and is insensitive to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
    Slashing the rate the government pays for each minute of VRS service money VRS providers invest into:
      - Hiring and training quality interpreters
      - Offering 911 emergency access
      - Lowering hold times
    Drastically reducing the money collected from phone companies to pay for relay services such as VRS, TTY and IP Relay.

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