Originally published: January 26, 2013
Last updated: February 14, 2013 - 4:40pm
In this Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking the Federal Communications Commission takes immediate, interim steps to address certain practices related to the provision and marketing of Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) that appear to be contributing to a recent and dramatic spike in reimbursement requests to the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Service Fund (TRS Fund or Fund), of sufficient magnitude to constitute a serious threat to the Fund if not promptly and decisively addressed.
IP CTS permits people who can speak, but who 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.
In this Order, the FCC finds good cause to adopt without notice and comment interim rules:
(1) prohibiting all referrals for rewards programs (as described below) and any other form of direct or indirect inducements, financial or otherwise, to subscribe to or use, or encourage subscription to or use of, IP CTS;
(2) requiring each IP CTS provider, in order to be eligible for compensation from the Fund for providing service to new IP CTS users,
(i) to register each new IP CTS user,
(ii) as part of the registration process, to obtain from each user a self-certification that the user has a hearing loss that necessitates IP CTS to communicate in a manner that is functionally equivalent to communication by conventional voice telephone users, and
(iii) where the consumer accepts IP CTS equipment at a price below $75 from any source other than a governmental program, to also obtain from the user a certification from an independent, third party professional attesting to the same; and
(3) requiring IP CTS providers to ensure that equipment and software used in conjunction with their service have a default setting of captions off at the beginning of each call, so that the consumer must take an affirmative step to turn on the captions each time the consumer wishes to use IP CTS.
In addition to adopting these interim rules, we clarify our TRS payment rule, in an interpretive rule modification not subject to notice and comment, to explicitly provide that the Fund administrator shall not be obligated to pay any request for compensation until it has been established as compensable.
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