Articles
Fall 2013
From "New Horizons" Magazine

FCC Adopts Comprehensive Reform Order for Video Relay Service

by Sharon Hayes, VRSCA Director

With upcoming holidays – Halloween, Thanksgiving and the holiday season, many of us will call family, friends and others to say hello and share news. Thanks to the ADA (Americans with Disability Act), we are able to just pick up a call, without missing a beat. Making phone calls, just like hearing people, is a right we must protect!

On June 10, 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) about its adoption of new rules that may threaten this communication right, guaranteed by the ADA. The Order includes a number of actions to restructure the VRS program as well as steps intended to improve the quality, interoperability and portability of videophone equipment used by VRS callers. Some of the aspects of the Order are clear and beneficial. Other aspects of the order, however, will not benefit the deaf community and will negatively impact the quality of VRS. For example, the Order promotes off-the-shelf video technology – technology that is meant for mainstream consumers, not specifically designed for deaf users. In addition, the Order makes rate cuts to VRS providers. This may lead to providers being forced to lower their costs, most likely resulting in the elimination of ongoing research, development, innovation and limited choice in equipment and sub-standard services. Will this mean less competition among providers, resulting in fewer choices for deaf consumers? VRSCA is concerned about aspects of the Order. Watch the video that addresses some of these concerns by visiting www.vrsca.org.

You can read the FCC Report and Order and FNPRM by visiting http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-13-82A1.pdf.

Or you can go to www.vrsca.organd click on the link to the FNPRM listed on the right column.

Although the Reply Comments period is closed (as of Sept. 18, 2013), it is still not too late for you to contact your congressional representative and express your comments and/or concerns related to the Order and FNPRM dated June 10, 2013. To send an email to your state’s representative, visit www.vrsca.org and click on the “Get Involved” link, which will lead you to the congress.org website.

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