Misuse of Services for Disabled Addressed
WASHINGTON (CN) - The Federal Communications Commission has issued new regulations that aim to end the fraudulent use of communication services intended for those with hearing or speech disabilities.
The regulations address the misuse of Internet Protocol (IP) Captioned Telephone Service (CTS), Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) and Speech-to-Speech Service. The services are explicitly meant for people with hearing or speech disabilities, but are being used by those who do not have those disabilities, effectively siphoning money away from the federal Interstate TRS Fund that pays for them.
"IP CTS, a form of telecommunications relay service (TRS), permits people who can speak, but who have a hearing loss and have difficulty hearing over the telephone, to speak directly to another party on a telephone call and to use an Internet Protocol-enabled device to simultaneously listen to the other party and read captions of what that party is saying," according to the action.
The FCC said that in 2012 it witnessed an "unusually" steep increase in IP CTS minutes, leading to concerns that the services' funding mechanism could dry up.
The fund is generated by mandated contributions by service providers who receive money back when they sell services to consumers. The problem is that IP CTS providers have been marketing equipment, offering monetary rewards for referrals, and expanding the use of the specialized equipment to people who do not need it.
According to an FCC statement, the new regulations prohibit referrals-for-rewards, incentives and other programs, requires IP CTS providers to register new users, and calls for customers to provide a "self-certification" signed under "penalty of perjury," verifying the need for such services.
The FCC also seeks comments on whether it should change the methodology for calculating the compensation rates paid to providers for IP CTS and if tying rates for PSTN-based (Public Switched Telephone System) CTS and IP CTS together at the state level is still appropriate.
The agency also asks for comments on whether oversight, funding and administration should be transferred to state TRS programs, and if there is a need for minimum standards for IP CTS performance.
Finally, the FCC seeks comments on the default "captions off" regulation it just approved, and input on a proposal that "statements be prominently displayed on all IP CTS provider Web sites," the agency said.
Comments are due by Oct. 18.