VRS News
Winter 2016

VRSCA submitted reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

On Feb. 1, 2016, VRSCA submitted reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the FCC’s proposals for improvements to the Video Relay Service (VRS) program. VRSCA’s filing supported comments previously filed by Consumer Groups and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and an Ex Parte Letter filed by the National Association of the Deaf. To read the Feb. 1 filing in its entirety, click here.

Winter 2015

VRSCA Submits Reply Comments to FCC's Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

On Dec. 23, 2015, the VRSCA submitted reply comments in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the FCC’s proposal to modify the Video Relay Service (VRS) compensation rate plan adopted by the FCC in 2013. While the VRSCA is not in a position to comment on VRS rate standards for providers, the VRSCA is in a position to inform the FCC that VRS consumers are concerned about further degradation in the quality of service. To read the entire filing, click here.

FCC Proposals Will Degrade VRS Services

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) about the structure of the Video Relay Service (VRS) program. The FNPRM proposes freezing compensation rates for the three smallest VRS providers and continuing the planned rate cuts for the largest three providers to take effect every six months through July 2017. We have already seen lower quality VRS because of the rate cuts that have occurred and VRS consumers will continue to be negatively impacted with each additional cut.

Additionally, the lack of a freeze on rates for the providers that provide the vast majority of VRS service will have considerable impact not only on the VRS industry as we know it; in turn, it will impact video interpreters (VIs). We need to ensure this “domino effect” will not take place.

While the FFC’s proposal to stabilize the rates for the three small providers is a small step in the right direction – and will help a small portion of VRS users, it falls far short of helping solve the real quality concerns of the vast majority of deaf users of VRS.

While VRSCA appreciates the “small step” the FCC is proposing, it is not enough. VRSCA thinks the FNPRM proposals are shortsighted and do not help the majority of VRS consumers. VRSCA will be sending comments to the FCC to let the commissioners know we want proposals that will provide quality, functionally-equivalent VRS services for deaf people. The situation is critical! You can read the Nov. 2, 2015 FNPRM by visiting http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2015/db1103/FCC-15-143A1.pdf.

Let your opinion about VRS be known! Send your comments to the FCC. Without your feedback, the FCC will make decisions without input from the Deaf community – the people who use VRS! You can post comments to the FCC’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FCC/ or by visiting the FCC’s website at https://www.fcc.gov/comments.

Summer 2015

Consumer Rights to Ten-Digit Telephone Numbers

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) posted an American Sign Language (ASL) video that explains to Video Relay Service (VRS) consumers their right to be fully informed about porting a ten-digit telephone number for VRS. To learn more, visit here.

United Providers Oppose VRS Rate Increase

On June 30, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new compensation rates for Video Relay Service (VRS) providers. The six U.S. providers of VRS said that by reducing the rates, the FCC missed an opportunity to improve Video Relay Service (VRS), expand its offerings and uphold the Americans with Disabilities Act’s promise of functionally- equivalent telecommunication services for people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. To read the entire news release issued by the providers, click here.

VRS Providers to Collect More Information

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now requiring all Video Relay Service (VRS) providers to obtain customers’ full name, date of birth and the last four digits of their social security number. Customers must also confirm they are eligible to use VRS and that they understand VRS providers are required to upload all of this information as well as customers’ home addresses and ten-digit numbers to the TRS User Registration Database. If customers are not able to provide the last four digits of their social security number, they will be asked to provide one of the following: a current driver’s license, birth certificate, current income statement from the customer’s employer, a paycheck stub or W-2, the previous year’s state, federal or tribal tax return, a current health insurance card, current passport or government assistance documents (which include the person’s full name and date of birth) or an unemployment worker’s compensation statement of benefits.

The United Providers of VRS – ASL Services, CAAG, Convo, Purple Communications, ZVRS and Sorenson – have joined together to oppose this requirement as they think it is unnecessary. You can read the United Providers joint petition requesting a temporary waiver of the social security number and date of birth requirements and the petition for rulemaking by visiting www.bitly.com/FCCupdate.

Still, the FCC is requiring VRS providers to collect the information from customers this fall. VRS providers will not be compensated for the VRS calls of customers who do not provide their additional personal information, and VRS consumers may be denied access to VRS service. VRS providers will be contacting customers to obtain this information. Or, consumers can proactively contact their VRS provider and update their accounts.

To watch a Convo live chat video about this topic, visit https://convorelay.com/openchat.html. To see a video about the United Providers opposing the new personal information FCC requirements, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3EKj-t9zMY. To read a letter to FCC Chairman Wheeler from deaf and hard-of-hearing consumer groups about the new requirement, visit http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=60001048907.

For more information on this subject, consumers can contact the FCC’s ASL Customer Support Line at 844-432-2275.

Spring 2015

FCC Hopes to ‘Reboot’ Lifeline Program

On May 28, 2015, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler announced “…it is time to overhaul Lifeline to make sure it is still performing the critical function for which it was formed.” On the official FCC blog, “I am circulating new proposals to ‘reboot’ Lifeline for the Internet age.”

The Lifeline program was established in 1985 to help low-income Americans afford access to vital communications. But, according to Wheeler, “nearly 30 percent of Americans still haven’t adopted broadband at home, and low-income consumers disproportionately lack access….A world of broadband ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ is a world where none of us will have the opportunity to enjoy the full fruits of what broadband has to offer.

To read Wheeler’s blog posting in its entirety, click here.

VRSCA Shares Survey Results in FCC Filing

Over the years, VRSCA has not endorsed any individual VRS provider’s programs or ideas. However, on April 27, 2015, VRSCA filed a letter with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of the Joint Proposal of All Six VRS Providers for Improving Functional Equivalence and Stabilizing Rates (Joint Proposal), which was filed on March 30, 2015. In addition, nine Deaf consumer organizations added their support to the Joint Proposal.

Recently, VRSCA conducted surveys at multiple national deaf events. The results of the surveys confirm that deaf consumers overwhelming agree that implementing the Joint Provider proposals will improve the quality of VRS. To read the April 27, 2015 letter from VRSCA to the FCC and to view the results of the VRSCA surveys, click here.

VRS Providers Submit Unified Proposal

On March 30, 2015, all six VRS providers submitted a unified proposal to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting improvements in Video Relay Service. The proposal specifically addressed speed-of-answer performance, maintaining current compensation rates, conducting a trial of skills-based routing and encouraging providers to offer deaf interpreters. The providers also indicated they would work to resolve any interoperability issues. To read the proposal in its entirety, visit www.vrsca.org/latest_news/articles/2015-03-30-Joint-VRS-Providers-Proposal-(FINAL).pdf.

Phillips Named Board Chair

In early February, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced the appointment of Andrew Phillips, Policy Counsel, National Association of the Deaf (NAD), as chairperson of the new national Disability Advisory Committee. The new committee will provide advice and recommendations to the Commission on a wide array of disability matters within the jurisdiction of the Commission and facilitate the participation of people with disabilities in proceedings before the Commission. For more information, visit http://www.fcc.gov/document/disability-advisory-committee.

February 2015

Update about Texting-to-911

Texting-to-911 is becoming more accessible in some parts of the United States, although many areas do not yet support it. Rules from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) state that text providers must begin routing 911 text messages to requesting PSAP (Public Service Answering Point) PSAPs, the entities that process texts, by June 30, 2015, or within six months of a valid PSAP request, whichever is later.

PSAPS that have fulfilled the requirements to receive text-to-911 messages are listed in the PSAP Text-to-911 Readiness and Certification Registry, which can be found at http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/psap-text-911-readiness-and-certification. PSAP readiness and certification forms as well as instructions to 911 authorities and PSAPs can be found there as well.

Fall 2014

Texting-to-911 in an Emergency

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new rules about text-to-911. These rules are designed to quicken the nationwide availability of text-to-911, but this service is not yet available in many parts of the United States at this time. The FCC has posted a video on its website that gives consumers important information about texting-to-911. In the video, consumers are warned not to rely on texting to reach 911. Instead, the FCC recommends that deaf consumers who have an emergency make a voice, relay or TTY call to 911. The FCC will keep consumers informed about the progress of this very important service.

For more information on this important topic, visit www.fcc.gov/text-to-911.

June 2014

FCC Launches Video Support Call Center

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently launched a new support center that gives deaf callers the option to call the FCC directly from a videophone (VP) and talk directly with the FCC using American Sign Language. If you have questions, comments or complaints, you can call the FCC at 844-4-FCC-ASL (844-432-2275) between 10 a.m. and 5:30p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday, except holidays. For more information, visit the FCC website: http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/disability-rights-office.

Spring 2014

Learn More About What Neutral Platform (NP) and Reference Platform (RF) Mean for Those Who Use VRS

Watch the links below to learn about the FCC’s attitude about future changes to VRS and what it means to those of us who use VRS. It is important to understand what the FCC changes will mean for us and which platform would be best for the future of VRS and for consumers. If you use VRS then YOU are a consumer.

Ed’s Alert vlogs
1st Video
2nd Video

Jeff Rosen’s vlog
1st Video
2nd Video
3rd Video: (open chat with Ed Bosson)

iDeafNews Interview
Reform Panel Discussion

January 30, 2014

FCC Authorizes Voluntary Experiments to Measure Impact on Customers of Technology Transitions in Communications Networks

On Jan. 30, 2014, the FCC launched a broad set of voluntary experiments meant to ensure that the nation’s communications networks continue to provide the services consumers want and need in this era of historic technological transformations. For more information on the experiments, click here.

January 30, 2014

FCC Sets Path for Widespread Text-to-911 Deployment

On Jan. 30, 2014, the FCC said text providers should enable the public to text 911 in an emergency, encouraging providers that have not begun deploying text-to-911 to forge solutions to meet this goal. The Commission also sought further comment on regulatory proposals to help ensure that Americans will be able to send these texts by the end of the year, regardless of which text provider they use, in areas where 911 call centers can receive texts. To read the entire news release, visit http://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-sets-path-widespread-text-911-deployment.

January 17, 2014

Report on FCC Stakeholders Meeting

On January 17, 2014, the FCC held a stakeholders’ meeting for establishing an Internet-based Telecommunications Relay Service National Outreach Program (iTRS-NOP) for video relay service (VRS) and Internet protocol relay service (IP Relay). Read the informal transcript of this stakeholders meeting by clicking here. An archived webcast of the meeting can be viewed on the FCC Event web page.

January 10, 2014

Letter to the FCC

On Jan.10, deaf advocate Sheri Farinha wrote a letter to the FCC about the FCC’s proposal to have only one VRS/VP platform as well as its proposal to adapt regulatory frameworks to current networks and markets. Sheri’s concerns should be a concern for all VRS consumers! Additionally, we Deaf consumers need to demand that the FCC better communicate through video, email, and social media information about issues that concern communication access for all Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people. Please take time to read and share the letter with others Click here. Contact the FCC about concerns you may have by visiting www.fcc.gov/contact-us.

September 18, 2013

VRSCA Files Reply Comments with FCC

On Sept. 18, 2013, VRSCA submitted Reply Comments to the FCC in response to the FCC’s June 10, 2013 Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking about the structure and practices of the Video Relay Service Program. To read VRSCA’s Reply Comments, click here.

Summer 2013

Restructuring VRS = Fewer Choices for Consumers

Some aspects of the FCC’s June 2013 Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) on the structure and practices of VRS service will not benefit the deaf community. Watch a video that explains how changes could impact VRS. Click here.

June 2013

FCC Report

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on June 10, 2013. Click here to read the full report. VRSCA will provide more information in coming weeks.

March 2013

Important Information for VRS Consumers

Take time to watch an informative Federal Communications Commission video about texting to 911.
Watch Video >>

January 2013

Tips for VRS Calling

Learn how to work with interpreters to have successful VRS calls.

Watch Video
November 29, 2012

VRSCA Files Reply Comments with FCC

VRSCA submitted reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to the FCC's request for public feedback on its recent Public Notice. To read the filing in its entirety, click here.

November 5, 2012

FCC Wants Comments

To read proposals and send comments through Nov. 29, click here.

October 19, 2012

FCC Seeks Additional Comment on FNPRM

On Oct. 15, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Public Notice seeking additional comment on the structure and practices of the Video Relay Service (VRS) program and on compensation rates for VRS providers. VRSCA has some initial concerns about the notice and, in an effort to provide you with accurate information, is currently studying its content. We will provide more information to consumers in the coming weeks, so please check this site often. In the meantime, VRSCA urges all consumers to become familiar with the Public Notice. You can read it in its entirety by clicking here.

October 2012

Fall Greetings

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September 2012

Tips for Successful VRS Calls

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June 2012

Summer Greetings

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February 2012

What Does the FNPRM Say?

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) recent Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or FNPRM, reviews and proposes changes to current VRS rules - rules that will affect how we communicate using VRS. Learn more about the FNPRM and what it says by watching the video.

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February 24, 2012

Come See Us!

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February 2012

FCC Extends Deadlines

Read latest FCC Order, which extends the deadlines for filing Comments and Reply Comments in CG Dockets #10-51 and #03-123. Comments are now due March 9, 2012, and Reply Comments are due March 30, 2012. To read the order, click here.

January 2012

FCC Posts ASL Video on VRS Reform

Visit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website to view ASL videos about VRS reform and the recently-released Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making (FNPRM). You can view the questions and ASL responses by visiting http://www.fcc.gov/guides/vrs-reform.

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