Wednesday, January 10, 2007

IP Captioned Telephone Service Eligible for TRS Compensation

In a decision that could benefit the deaf and hard-of-hearing, the FCC adopted a Declaratory Ruling finding that Internet Protocol (IP) captioned telephone service (IP CTS) is a type of telecommunications relay service (TRS) eligible for compensation from the Interstate TRS Fund (Fund). The decision would enable these affected consumers to more easily take advantage of the flexibility and portability that IP captioned telephone service offers by freeing them from having to use specialized equipment.

An IP captioned telephone call can be set up similar to a two-line captioned telephone call, except that the line from the user to the provider would be via the Internet, not a second PSTN line. The consumer would make a voice-to-voice call to the other party on a standard telephone and the PSTN; at the same time, the voice of the called party is directed from the consumer's telephone to a personal computer (or similar device) that routes it to the IP CTS provider via the Internet. The provider, in turn, sends back to the consumer the text of what was spoken. As a result, the consumer can both hear (to the extent possible) what the called party is saying over the standard voice telephone headset, and read the text of what the called party said on the computer or similar device.

IP CTS will benefit consumers by giving them the flexibility of using a computer, PDA, or wireless device to make such a call, without having to purchase special telephone equipment. In addition, captions provided on a computer screen can accommodate a much wider group of individuals, including persons with low vision, because they can take advantage of the large text, variable fonts, and variable colors that are available.

The FCC said IP CTS calls will be compensated, on an interim basis, at the IP Relay compensation rate. The Commission also concluded that providers seeking to offer this service and be compensated from the Fund may seek certification from the Commission as an eligible provider. The Commission noted that this is an interim measure and that it intends to revisit the cost recovery methodology for this service in the future, including jurisdictional separation of costs.

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