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Comment Sought On National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program

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Released: August 1, 2014
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PUBLIC NOTICE

Federal

Communications Commission

News Media Information 202 / 418-0500

445 12th Street, S.W.

Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

Washington, D.C. 20554

TTY: 1-888-835-5322

DA 14-1128

Released: August 1, 2014

CONSUMER AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS BUREAU SEEKS COMMENT ON THE

NATIONAL DEAF-BLIND EQUIPMENT DISTRIBUTION PROGRAM

Pleading Cycle Established

CG Docket No. 10-210

Comment Date: August 22, 2014

Reply Comment Date: September 5, 2014

I.

Introduction

1.

In this Public Notice, we seek comment on a range of issues related to the establishment

of a permanent National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP). The NDBEDP is a

program of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) that supports the distribution

of communications devices to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind.

2.

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010

(CVAA) directed the Commission to establish rules to provide up to $10 million annually from the

interstate telecommunications relay service fund (TRS Fund) to support programs that distribute

communications equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind.1 In accordance with this

directive, the Commission established the NDBEDP,2 which has been operating as a pilot program since

July 1, 2012.3 The rules governing this pilot program will expire on June 30, 2015.4 In this Public

Notice, we invite the public to tell us which rules governing the NDBEDP pilot program have been

effective and should remain in place and which should be modified to make the permanent NDBEDP

more effective and more efficient.5 Comments filed in response to this Public Notice will help inform the

1 Pub. L. No. 111-260, 124 Stat. 2751, § 105 (2010); Amendment of Twenty-First Century Communications and

Video Accessibility Act of 2010, Pub. L. 111-265, 124 Stat. 2795 (2010) (making technical corrections to the

CVAA). Section 105 of the CVAA adds Section 719 to the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and is

codified at 47 U.S.C. § 620.

2 See Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, Section

105, Relay Services for Deaf-Blind Individuals, Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd 5640 (2011) (NDBEDP Report and

Order).

3 See Commission Announces Launch of the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, Public Notice,

27 FCC Rcd 7403 (CGB 2012).

4 See Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, Section

105, Relay Services for Deaf-Blind Individuals, Order, 29 FCC Rcd 1234 (CGB 2014) (NDBEDP Third Year

Order).

5 See 47 C.F.R. § 64.610 (NDBEDP pilot program rules).

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preparation of a Commission Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the development of rules to continue the

NDBEDP after the pilot program ends.6

II.

Program Structure

3.

Currently, there are 53 entities – one entity per state, plus the District of Columbia,

Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands – certified by the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

(CGB or Bureau) to receive support for the distribution of equipment to low-income individuals who are

deaf-blind.7 Each certified program has primary oversight and responsibility for compliance with

program requirements, but may fulfill its responsibilities directly or through collaboration, partnership, or

contract with other individuals or entities within or outside of their states or territories.8 We seek

comment on whether this program structure should be retained for the permanent NDBEDP. Specifically,

what are the advantages or disadvantages of having separately certified programs across the United States

and its territories? Would it be more efficient or effective to have a single entity operate the NDBEDP

nationwide, or fewer entities operate multistate regional programs across the country? Which would be

preferable for consumers who are deaf-blind: localizing oversight of individual NDBEDP programs or

centralizing the responsibilities currently handled by these programs?

4.

At present, each certified program is responsible for both the distribution of equipment

and various administrative functions associated with the NDBEDP. Tasks associated with the distribution

of equipment include outreach, assessment, installation of devices, and training.9 Administrative

functions include the submission of reimbursement claims, the fulfillment of reporting obligations, and

conducting annual audits.10 What would be the advantages or disadvantages of transferring some of the

responsibilities in either or both of these categories (distribution of equipment and/or administrative

functions) to a single administrator? Which tasks would be appropriate for assignment to a central

administrator? Would it be preferable to maintain individual certified programs for certain tasks – for

example, those related to the distribution of equipment – while centralizing some or all of the

administrative functions in a single entity? To what extent would there be advantages to adopting

centralized web-based systems for processing reimbursement claims or reporting? We note that during

the NDBEDP pilot program, some state programs relinquished their certification, requiring the

Commission to seek replacements in those states.11 We ask interested stakeholders to comment on

6 The resulting record will be shared with the NDBEDP Administrator so that it can help the Commission “obtain,

review, and analyze data to assess the effectiveness of the pilot program” and “work with Commission staff on the

adoption of rules for a permanent program.” NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5685-86, ¶ 105.

7 See NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5646, ¶ 12. See also Commission Announces Entities Certified to

Participate in the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, 27 FCC Rcd 7397 (CGB 2012).

8 See NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5647, ¶ 13.

9 See id., 26 FCC Rcd at 5668-69, 5670-71, 5679, ¶¶ 65, 69, 79.

10 See id., 26 FCC Rcd at 5680, ¶ 92.

11 FCC Invites Applications for Certification to Participate in the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution

Program in the State of Nevada, Public Notice, 28 FCC Rcd 6360 (CGB 2013); FCC Invites Applications for

Certification to Participate in the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program in the State of Mississippi,

Public Notice, 28 FCC Rcd 14869 (CGB 2013); FCC Invites Applications for Certification to Participate in the

National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program in the States of Vermont and Nebraska, Public Notice, 29

FCC Rcd 3921 (CGB 2014); FCC Invites Applications for Certification to Participate in the National Deaf-Blind

Equipment Distribution Program in the States of Indiana and Minnesota, Public Notice, DA 14-775 (CGB, rel. June

4, 2014); FCC Invites Applications for Certification to Participate in the National Deaf-Blind Equipment

Distribution Program in the State of Iowa, Public Notice, DA 14-964 (CGB, rel. July 3, 2014).

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whether centralizing certain distribution and/or administrative functions would increase the likelihood

that programs will fulfill the terms of their certification by creating greater efficiencies. What other

measures can the Commission take to improve the structure of the NDBEDP and support certified

programs in their efforts to distribute equipment to people who are deaf-blind?

5.

The NDBEDP Report and Order set forth a series of criteria that has been used by the

Bureau to evaluate an entity’s qualifications to obtain certification, including expertise and experience in

the field of deaf-blindness and communications services, sufficient staffing and facilities, and the ability

to communicate effectively with and provide equipment training for people who are deaf-blind.12 Should

the Commission change any of these criteria and, if so, how? If the Commission chooses to centralize

some of the functions associated with the distribution or administrative functions of the NDBEDP, what

qualifications should the entity chosen to manage these functions have? How should such entity be

selected? For example, should the Bureau invite entities to apply and then make a selection from among

qualified applicants?13

6.

At present, all NDBEDP programs are certified for the duration of the pilot program.14

Should the Commission’s rules for a permanent NDBEDP limit the duration of each program’s

certification? We note that under the Commission’s telecommunications relay service (TRS) rules, states

are certified by the Commission to operate their own TRS programs for a period of five years, after which

they must seek renewal of their certification.15 Is this certification period similarly appropriate for

NDBEDP certified programs? If not, what would be an appropriate period, and why? Should entities that

currently have certification to distribute equipment be permitted to carry over their certification into the

permanent program, or should they be required to reapply for certification?

7.

During the NDBEDP pilot program, the Bureau designated an NDBEDP Administrator

who has been responsible for, among other things, reviewing applications from entities for certification to

receive NDBEDP funding, allocating NDBEDP funding, reviewing reimbursement claims, maintaining

the NDBEDP website, resolving stakeholder issues, and serving as the Commission point of contact for

the NDBEDP.16 The NDBEDP Administrator has worked in collaboration with the current TRS Fund

Administrator, Rolka Loube Saltzer Associates, LLC, which is responsible for, among other things,

reviewing cost submissions and releasing funds under the NDBEDP for distributed equipment and related

services, including outreach efforts.17 We seek comment on the extent to which any of these

administrative responsibilities should be modified, and if so, how and for what purposes.

12 See 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(b) (full list of certification criteria).

13 The Commission employed this procedure for its selection of the NDBEDP national outreach coordinator. See

FCC Invites Applicants to Conduct National Outreach for the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution

Program, Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd 14517 (CGB 2011).

14 See NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5647, ¶ 14.

15 See, e.g., 47 C.F.R. § 64.606(c)(1)(state TRS applications for renewal may be filed one year prior to expiration);

47 C.F.R. § 64.606 (c)(2) (Internet-based TRS provider certification is for five years; applications for renewal must

be filed at least 90 days prior to expiration).

16 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(h)(1). Among its many public releases, the Bureau has also provided the following guidance

with respect to the administration of the NDBEDP pilot program: (1) “NDBEDP Certified Program Expenses,”

available at http://r-l-s-a.com/TRS/ExamplesofReimbursableExpenses.pdf (providing examples of expenses that are

and are not reimbursable under the NDBEDP) (last viewed June 30, 2014) (NDBEDP Expenses); and (2) “NDBEDP

Frequently Asked Questions,” available at http://r-l-s-a.com/TRS/NDBEDP-FAQ.pdf (last viewed June 30, 2014)

(NDBEDP FAQ).

17 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(h)(2).

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III.

Funding

8.

In the NDBEDP Report and Order, the Commission set aside $500,000 of the $10

million available annually for the NDBEDP for national outreach efforts during each year of the pilot

program.18 The remaining $9.5 million of the $10 million is allocated to each of the NDBEDP certified

programs, to be distributed as reimbursement for the reasonable costs of operating these programs in

compliance with the Commission’s rules.19 Funding allocations for each of the 53 programs that are

currently certified has been calculated by allocating a minimum base amount of $50,000 for each

jurisdiction plus an amount in proportion to each jurisdiction’s population.20 If the Commission continues

to operate the NDBEDP through certified programs, is this current funding allocation system reasonable

and fair? We ask that commenters who believe that this approach to funding allocations should be

changed be specific in describing what changes should be made and what purpose these changes will

serve.

9.

During the first year of the pilot program, NDBEDP certified programs submitted

reimbursement claims to the TRS Fund Administrator for approximately 70 percent of the $10 million

available to support the NDBEDP.21 Although data for the second year of the pilot program, which ends

June 30, 2015, are not yet fully available, requests for reimbursement to date suggest that these claims are

likely to reach 100 percent of the $10 million annual allocation.22 During each of the pilot program years,

the NDBEDP Administrator has reviewed funding data as it has become available and has worked with

certified programs and the Bureau to have funding reallocated between state programs when necessary to

maximize the use of available funding.23 To what extent have these reallocations helped to meet the

needs of certified programs in receipt of such funds? Have they in any way hindered the distribution of

equipment by programs that have not fully utilized their allocations? Should the permanent NDBEDP

rules continue to authorize the reallocation of funds from one program to another, as deemed necessary

and appropriate?

10.

Under the NDBEDP pilot program, the Commission has reimbursed certified programs

for the authorized costs of equipment and related services after these costs have been incurred, up to each

program’s initial or adjusted allocation.24 The Commission adopted this approach to provide incentives to

actively locate eligible participants and to provide greater accountability and protection against fraud,

waste, and abuse.25 Certified programs may elect to seek such reimbursement monthly, quarterly, or

18 See NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5675-76, ¶ 80.

19 Id., 26 FCC Rcd at 5677, ¶ 85.

20 Id., 26 FCC Rcd at 5677, ¶ 84. CGB is authorized to adjust these allocations, as needed and appropriate. Id., 26

FCC Rcd at 5677, ¶¶ 85, 90. See also Bureau Announces 2013-2014 State Allocations for the National Deaf-Blind

Equipment Distribution Program, 28 FCC Rcd 9243 (2013).

21 See NDBEDP Third Year Order, 29 FCC Rcd at 1236, ¶ 5

22 See id., 29 FCC Rcd at 1236, ¶ 6.

23 The Bureau may reduce, raise, or reallocate funding allocations to any certified program as it may deem necessary

and appropriate. See id., 26 FCC Rcd at 5679, ¶ 90.

24 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(f).

25 See NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5679, ¶ 88. Each reimbursement claim must be accompanied by

a declaration made under penalty of perjury attesting to the truth and accuracy of the submission. 47 C.F.R. §

64.610(f)(3).

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semi-annually.26 We seek comment on how this reimbursement mechanism has worked in practice and

whether the Commission should retain this reimbursement mechanism or adopt another mechanism to

support certified programs. If the Commission should consider changes to the reimbursement

mechanism, what alternative mechanism could be adopted that would provide incentives to locate eligible

participants, achieve accountability, and protect against fraud, waste, and abuse and how would it

function? As noted above, over the past two years, on occasion, the NDBEDP Administrator has adjusted

allocations among the NDBEDP certified programs. If funds were advanced to certified programs, but

then not fully used during the Fund year, how would the program return those funds to the Commission’s

TRS Fund Administrator for reallocation to other certified programs? Would reallocation during each

Fund year be possible with a funding mechanism other than the reimbursement mechanism now used?

For example, would it be feasible to reallocate funds if each certified program receives its allotted portion

of the funding prior to these funds being spent for covered equipment and services?27 If the present

reimbursement mechanism is retained, how can the Commission make it more efficient? For example,

would programs benefit from using a centralized web-based system to input cost-related information and

documentation, from which standardized reimbursement claims and reports could be generated to

expedite processing, payment, and reporting?28 Would such a centralized web-based system facilitate

more rapid payment of claims? Should the Commission require that such claims be paid within a certain

time frame and, if so, what time frame would be appropriate?

11.

NDBEDP certified programs may be reimbursed for administrative costs up to 15 percent

of their total reimbursable costs for equipment and related services, but have no caps on costs associated

with outreach, assessments, equipment, installation, or training.29 We seek comment on whether this 15

percent cap on administrative costs should be retained. Is 15 percent sufficient to cover administrative

costs typically incurred through participation in the NDBEDP, such as reporting requirements,

accounting, regular audits, oversight, and general administration?30 Are there other types of

administrative costs typically incurred by NDBEDP certified programs that are not listed here? Should

the cap on administrative costs be based on the program’s annual funding allocation rather than

reimbursable costs for equipment and related services? Would a cap on administrative costs based on the

program’s annual funding allocation act as a disincentive to locate or provide equipment and related

services to eligible participants, since a certified entity would be entitled to such reimbursement without

having delivered any equipment or related services?

12.

If the Commission decides to adopt a centralized web-based system for accounting and

reporting, what amount of the annual $10 million allocation should be set aside for these purposes?

Similarly, what annual costs would individual programs have to incur to participate in such a centralized

system? Should a certified program’s costs to participate in a centralized web-based accounting and

reporting system be considered program costs, rather than administrative costs? If so, should the 15

percent cap on administrative costs be retained or changed? If they are considered administrative costs,

should they be subject to the 15 percent cap?

26 See Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, Section

105, Relay Services for Deaf-Blind Individuals, Order, 27 FCC Rcd 2812 (CGB 2012).

27 See ¶ 9, supra (noting that the Bureau reallocated funds between state programs during the first two years of the

pilot program when necessary to maximize the use of available funding).

28 See 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(g) (reporting requirements for NDBEDP certified programs). See also Section IX, infra

(discussing oversight and reporting).

29 See NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5680, ¶ 92.

30 Id.

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IV.

Consumer Eligibility

13.

Individuals who are Deaf-Blind. To participate in the NDBEDP, the CVAA requires that

individuals must be “deaf-blind,” as that term is defined in the Helen Keller National Center Act (HKNC

Act).31 The Commission’s NDBEDP pilot program rules also direct NDBEDP certified programs to

consider an individual’s functional abilities with respect to using telecommunications, advanced

communications, and Internet access services in various environments when determining whether an

individual is “deaf-blind.”32 The NDBEDP pilot program rules further require that individuals seeking

equipment under the NDBEDP must provide disability verification from a professional (e.g., community-

based service provider, vision or hearing related professional, vocational rehabilitation counselor,

educator, and medical or health professional) who has direct knowledge of and can attest to the

individual’s disability.33 Under the permanent rules, should the NDBEDP continue to accept as disability

verification documentation already in the applicant’s possession, such as individualized education

programs and Social Security determination letters?34 We seek comment on the extent to which these

rules have provided certified programs with the flexibility they need to identify the full range of

individuals who are deaf-blind for whom the NDBEDP was intended to serve. To the extent that

commenters request modifications to these rules, we seek input on the Commission’s authority to adopt

those modifications, given the CVAA’s definition of individuals who are “deaf-blind” who are eligible

under the NDBEDP.

14.

Low Income Limitation. To participate in the NDBEDP, individuals must be low-

income.35 The NDBEDP pilot program rules define low-income as 400% of the Federal Poverty

Guidelines (FPG) and allow automatic income eligibility for individuals enrolled in federal subsidy

programs with income thresholds lower than 400% of the FPG.36 Should the NDBEDP continue to use

31 47 U.S.C. § 620(b). The HKNC Act defines an individual who is “deaf-blind” as any individual: (A)(i) who has

a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with corrective lenses, or a field defect such that the

peripheral diameter of visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees, or a progressive visual

loss having a prognosis leading to one or both these conditions; (ii) who has a chronic hearing impairment so severe

that most speech cannot be understood with optimum amplification, or a progressive hearing loss having a prognosis

leading to this condition; and (iii) for whom the combination of impairments described in clauses (i) and (ii) cause

extreme difficulty in attaining independence in daily life activities, achieving psychosocial adjustment, or obtaining

a vocation; (B) who despite the inability to be measured accurately for hearing and vision loss due to cognitive or

behavioral constraints, or both, can be determined through functional and performance assessment to have severe

hearing and visual disabilities that cause extreme difficulty in attaining independence in daily life activities,

achieving psychosocial adjustment, or obtaining vocational objectives; or (C) meets such other requirements as the

Secretary may prescribe by regulation. 29 U.S.C. § 1905(2).

3247 C.F.R. § 64.610(c)(2)(ii). See also NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5652, ¶ 27.

33 47 C.F.R. §§ 64.610(d)(1)(i), (ii). Such professionals must attest, either to the best of their knowledge or under

penalty of perjury, that the applicant is an individuals who is deaf-blind, as that term is defined in the Commission’s

rules. 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(d)(1)(ii). A disability verification must include the attester’s name, title, and contact

information, including address, phone number, and e-mail address. 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(d)(1)(iv).

34 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(d)(1)(iii).

35 47 U.S.C. § 620(a).

36 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(d)(2). These federal subsidy programs include the Federal Public Housing Assistance or

Section 8; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps; Low Income Home

Energy Assistance Program; Medicaid; National School Lunch Program's free lunch program; Supplemental

Security Income; or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Id. See also 2014 Poverty Guidelines, U.S.

Department of Health & Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, available at

http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/14poverty.cfm (last viewed July 8, 2014).

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the 400% of FPG rule for income eligibility? If not, what measure of income would be appropriate for

the permanent program? How should “income” be calculated (e.g., salary before any deductions, plus

any public assistance benefits, social security payments, pensions, unemployment compensation,

veteran’s benefits, inheritances, alimony, child support payments, worker’s compensation benefits, gifts,

lottery winnings, or other forms of income)?37 Should income be determined only with respect to the

individual (regardless of his or her status as a child, adult, student, dependent, or financially independent

person) or with respect to the household (e.g., an individual or group of individuals who are living

together at the same address as one economic unit)?38 We ask that commenters explain how their

proposals would be consistent with the “low-income” eligibility criteria mandated for this program, as

well as other federal programs.

15.

Other Eligibility Criteria. During the NDBEDP pilot program, the Commission’s rules

have permitted certified programs to require that NDBEDP equipment recipients demonstrate that they

have access to the telecommunications, advanced communications, or Internet access services that the

equipment is designed to use and make accessible.39 In contrast, certified programs may not impose

employment-related eligibility requirements for individuals to participate in the program.40 We seek

comment on whether these eligibility criteria should be maintained for the permanent NDBEDP and

whether there are other eligibility requirements that should be considered. Should certified programs be

permitted to consider the demographics of their jurisdictions, the amount of NDBEDP funds allocated for

their jurisdiction, the availability of equipment and services through other programs, or other factors to

prioritize the distribution of equipment or provision of related services to qualified applicants?41

V.

Equipment

16.

The NDBEDP provides support for the distribution of specialized customer premises

equipment42 needed to make telecommunications services,43 Internet access service,44 and advanced

37 See NDBEDP FAQ 23. See also 47 C.F.R. § 54.400(f) (defining “income” for purposes of universal service

support for low-income consumers).

38 See NDBEDP FAQ 16 and 24. See also 47 C.F.R. § 54.400(h) (defining “household” for purposes of universal

service support for low-income consumers).

39 See NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5658, ¶ 42.

40 See id., 26 FCC Rcd at 5659, ¶ 44.

41 The NDBEDP provides a funding resource for the distribution of communications equipment that supplements

rather than supplants any existing legal mandates or programs that may be available to provide communications or

other equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind. See id., 26 FCC Rcd at 5690, ¶ 115.

42 “Specialized customer premises equipment” is equipment employed on the premises of a person which is

commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access. See 47 U.S.C. §§ 153(16) (defining “customer

premises equipment”; 47 C.F.R. § 6.3(i) (defining “specialized customer premises equipment”). See also

Implementation of Sections 255 and 251(a)(2) of the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the

Telecommunications Act of 1996; Access to Telecommunications Service, Telecommunications Equipment and

Customer Premises Equipment by Persons with Disabilities, WT Docket No. 96-198, Report and Order and Further

Notice of Inquiry, 16 FCC Rcd 6417, 6435, ¶¶ 34-36 (1999) (providing further guidance on this definition).

43 “Telecommunications service” is defined in the Communications Act as the offering of telecommunications for a

fee directly to the public, or to such classes of users as to effectively available directly to the public, regardless of the

facilities used. 47 U.S.C. §152(46). “Telecommunications” is further defined as the transmission, between or

among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of

the information as sent and received. 47 U.S.C. §152(50).

44 The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act) defines

“Internet access service” as “a service that enables users to access content, information, electronic mail, or other

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communications,45 including interexchange services46 and advanced telecommunications and information

services47 accessible to people who are deaf-blind.48 Under the NDBEDP pilot program, the Commission

reimburses certified programs for the reasonable cost of equipment, which may be hardware, software, or

applications, separate or in combination, mainstream or specialized, as long as it meets the needs of the

deaf-blind individual to achieve access to NDBEDP covered services.49 Certified programs are permitted

to distribute multiple pieces of equipment to eligible consumers, as needed.50 Equipment-related

expenses, including maintenance, repairs, warranties, returns, maintaining an inventory of loaner

equipment, as well as refurbishing, upgrading, and replacing equipment distributed to consumers are also

reimbursable.51 Under the NDBEDP pilot program, certified programs may lend or transfer ownership of

the distributed equipment to qualified recipients.52 When a recipient relocates to another state, certified

programs must permit the transfer of the recipient’s account and any control of the distributed equipment

to the new state’s certified program.53 We seek comment on these provisions of the NDBEDP pilot

program, and whether the distribution of equipment under the permanent NDBEDP should be treated

differently. If so, how and why would such changes be consistent with the CVAA, benefit eligible low-

income individuals who are deaf-blind, and result in more efficient or effective use of NDBEDP funds?

For example, now that most programs are using up their annual fund allotment, should programs be

directed to limit the number of devices that each eligible individual may receive in a specified period of

time, such as one or two Fund years? Would this practice further or impede the goals of the NDBEDP?

VI.

Individualized Assessment of Communications Needs

17.

Under the NDBEDP pilot program, the Commission’s rules permit reimbursement for the

reasonable costs of making individualized assessments of a deaf-blind individual’s communications needs

services offered over the Internet, and may also include access to proprietary content, information, and other

services as part of a package of services offered to consumers.” 47 U.S.C. § 231(e)(4).

45 “Advanced communications” is defined to include “interconnected VoIP service,” “non-interconnected VoIP

service,” “electronic messaging service,” and “interoperable video conferencing service.” 47 U.S.C. § 153(1). See

also 47 C.F.R. § 9.3 (defining “interconnected VoIP service”); 47 U.S.C. § 153(36) (defining “non-interconnected

VoIP service”); 47 U.S.C. § 153(19) (defining “electronic messaging service”); and 47 U.S.C. § 153(27) (defining

“interoperable video conferencing service”).

46 “Interexchange services” are generally services between local exchanges in different geographic areas (local

access and transport areas, otherwise known as LATAs). Traditionally, these have been commonly called long-

distance services. See Union Telephone Co. v. Qwest Corp., 2004 WL 4960741 (D.Wyo. Sep 03, 2004) (NO. 02-

CV-209-D)(2004) at 2 (“long distance” (also known as “toll” or “interexchange”) service refers to service offered to

subscribers that permits them to place (or originate) calls that terminate outside of their local calling area).

47 “Information service” is defined as the offering of a capability for generating, acquiring, storing, transforming,

processing, retrieving, utilizing, or making available information via telecommunications, and includes electronic

publishing, but does not include any use of any such capability for the management, control, or operation of a

telecommunications system or the management of a telecommunications service. 47 U.S.C. § 153(24).

48 47 U.S.C. § 620(a).

49 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(c)(1) (defining “equipment” for purposes of the NDBEDP), (f)(1) (authorizing payment to

certified programs for the cost of NDBEDP equipment distributed and related services provided).

50 See NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5665, ¶ 55.

51 47 C.F.R. §§ 64.610(f)(2)(i), (iv). See also NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5673-74, ¶¶ 75-76;

NDBEDP Expenses at 1-2.

52 See NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5666, ¶ 58.

53 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(e)(iii).

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by qualified assistive technology specialists.54 The Commission also permits reimbursement for

reasonable travel costs of assessors and for support services, such as qualified interpreters, to conduct

individualized assessments, but does not permit reimbursement of travel costs for consumers to travel to

receive assessments.55 We seek comment on the appropriateness of the Commission’s rules governing

reimbursement for individualized assessments, and whether reimbursement of the reasonable costs of the

consumer’s travel for such assessments would make the NDBEDP more efficient and effective, as well as

the extent to which such travel would benefit consumers. For example, would it benefit potential

equipment recipients to be able to try out various types of communication devices that are located on the

premises of the certified programs?

VII.

Installation and Training

18.

The NDBEDP pilot program permits reimbursement for the reasonable costs of installing

NDBEDP distributed equipment and individualized consumer training on how to use the distributed

equipment.56 The Commission also permits reimbursement for reasonable travel costs of trainers and for

support services, such as qualified interpreters, to conduct individualized training, but does not permit

reimbursement of travel costs for consumers to travel to receive individualized training.57 We seek

comment on whether reimbursement of these costs should continue to be permitted, and whether

permitting reimbursement for the reasonable costs of the consumer’s travel for installation and training

would make the NDBEDP more efficient and effective. Are there circumstances in which consumers

would benefit if they are reimbursed for travel to distribution centers to obtain training?

19.

In the NDBEDP Report and Order, the Commission declined to set aside NDBEDP funds

in the pilot program to cover the cost of training for qualified individuals who can train NDBEDP

equipment recipients – i.e., a “train the trainer” service.58 At that time, it understood that there was a

shortage of qualified personnel, particularly with respect to training consumers who communicate

receptively and/or expressively in Braille or American Sign Language.59 As a result, the Commission

encouraged certified programs to maximize the use of limited resources through collaboration,

partnerships, or contracts between and among certified programs and other individuals and entities.60 We

seek comment on the extent to which there remains a shortage of qualified personnel to provide training

to NDBEDP equipment recipients. Are certified programs already using train-the-trainer programs?

What resources currently exist for trainers to learn about new technology or consult with subject matter

experts on an ongoing basis? Should a national entity coordinate such training? Would online training

modules by skilled specialists be effective to provide training remotely? We seek comment on whether

NDBEDP funds should be allocated for train-the-trainer programs, the Commission’s authority to allocate

such funds, the amount of funding that should be set aside for such training, and for what period of time

such funding should be permitted.

54 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(f)(2)(ii).

55 See NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5668, ¶ 65. See also NDBEDP Expenses at 1.

56 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(f)(2)(iii). See also NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5670-71, ¶ 69.

57 See NDBEDP Expenses at 2.

58 See NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5671, ¶ 70.

59 Id.

60 Id.

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VIII.

Outreach and Education

20.

The Commission has set aside $500,000 of the $10 million available annually for national

outreach efforts to promote the NDBEDP during each year of the pilot program.61 For this effort, the

Perkins School for the Blind partnered with the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and

Adults, FableVision, Inc., and worked with other national and local consumer groups, parent groups,

agencies, and associations.62 Among other things, this outreach effort has resulted in an NDBEDP

website, social media presence, and public service announcements (PSAs), as well as advertisements on

billboards and in magazines.63 We seek comment on the efforts undertaken by the national outreach

program,64 and whether the Commission should continue to fund national outreach efforts to promote the

NDBEDP. If so, is $500,000 or a different amount appropriate for such outreach, and for how long

should funding be continued?

21.

In addition to the set aside of $500,000 per year for national outreach during the pilot

program, certified programs have been reimbursed for the reasonable costs of outreach conducted within

their own jurisdictions.65 We seek comment on such state and local outreach efforts, their success, and

whether such efforts should continue to be reimbursable under the permanent NDBEDP.

IX.

Oversight and Reporting

22.

Commission rules require all certified programs to report certain information to the

Commission in an electronic format every six months.66 The report must include, among other things,

information about NDBEDP equipment recipients; distributed equipment; the cost, time and other

resources allocated to outreach activities, assessment, equipment installation and training, and for

equipment maintenance, repair, refurbishment, and upgrades; equipment requests that have been rejected;

complaints; and waiting lists.67 In the NDBEDP Report and Order, the Commission concluded that such

reporting is necessary for the effective administration of the NDBEDP pilot program, to assess the

effectiveness of the program, to ensure the integrity of the TRS Fund, to ensure compliance with the

61 See id., 26 FCC Rcd at 5675-76, ¶ 80.

62 See Perkins School for the Blind to Conduct National Outreach for the National Deaf-Blind Equipment

Distribution Program, Public Notice, 27 FCC Rcd 6143 (CGB 2012).

63 The iCanConnect website at www.iCanConnect.org provides contact and other information for each of the 53

certified programs (called “State Partners”), news about the program nationwide (including coverage by news media

and personal stories about how the program has benefitted equipment recipients), an overview of the types of

communications equipment the program can provide, and additional resources. See also

https://www.facebook.com/iCanConnect.org (Facebook), https://twitter.com/iCanConnect1 (Twitter), and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyQ6d9SgQ6s (60-second PSA),

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRlm8M7ieck (30-second PSA), and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRAJKCINY9o (10-second PSA).

64 See iCanConnect “Year One Highlights,” September 26, 2013 (filed Nov. 20, 2013) (providing a synopsis of the

first year of the NDBEDP pilot program, including national marketing and outreach efforts), available at

http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7520958851.

65 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(f)(2)(v). See also NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5675, ¶ 79; NDBEDP

Expenses at 2.

66 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(g)(1). See also NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5683-84, ¶ 99. Each report must

be accompanied by a declaration made under penalty of perjury attesting to the truth and accuracy of the submission.

47 C.F.R. § 64.610(g)(2).

67 See 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(g)(1).

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NDBEDP pilot program rules, and to inform the Commission’s rulemaking for the permanent

NDBEDP.68 We seek comment on the extent to which such reporting obligations remain necessary, as

well as ways to simplify this reporting requirement for the permanent NDBEDP. Commenters suggesting

that these obligations be modified should offer specific changes, and explain what, if any, the impact of

modifying these obligations would be on certified programs, consumers, and the Commission’s ability to

oversee the NDBEDP. For example, would submission of the required information through a centralized

web-based system be more efficient? Would such a system enable more standardized reporting and more

effective data analysis? Should the reporting requirements be streamlined so they can be used to satisfy

the information and documentation that certified programs must submit to support claims for

reimbursement to facilitate the submission of both reports and claims? What kinds of qualitative

information do NDBEDP certified programs and equipment recipients have that would benefit the

Commission’s oversight of the permanent NDBEDP?69 What other changes should be made to the

reporting requirements that would help inform the Commission about the program’s efficacy, yet

minimize burdens on certified programs?

23.

In addition to reporting requirements, certified programs must engage an independent

auditor to perform annual audits designed to detect and prevent fraud, waste, and abuse.70 We seek

comment on whether this audit requirement has been effective and whether the Commission should

impose additional safeguards to protect the integrity of the TRS Fund and the NDBEDP.

X.

Other Considerations

24.

We invite comment on any other issues, concerns, or questions that the Commission

should consider during the process of developing rules for the permanent NDBEDP.

XI.

Procedural Matters

25.

All comments should refer to CG Docket No. 10-210. Please title comments responsive

to this Public Notice as “NDBEDP PN Comments.” Further, we strongly encourage parties to develop

responses to this Public Notice that adhere to the organization and structure of the questions in this Public

Notice.

26.

Comment Filing Procedures. Pursuant to sections 1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission’s

rules,71 interested parties may file comments and reply comments on or before the dates indicated on the

first page of this document. Comments may be filed using the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing

System (ECFS).72

Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically using the Internet by accessing the

ECFS: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/.

68 See NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5683, ¶ 98.

69 By “qualitative,” we are referring to narrative or other non-statistical, non-quantitative information about the

program that might help us oversee the NDBEDP.

70 47 C.F.R. § 64.610(e)(1)(vii). See also NDBEDP Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 5684, ¶ 100. See also

NDBEDP FAQ 25.

71 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.415, 1.419.

72 See Electronic Filing of Documents in Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 FR 24121 (1998).

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Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must file an original and one copy of each

filing. If more than one docket or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding,

filers must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or rulemaking number.

Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by first-

class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission’s

Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.

All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for the Commission’s Secretary

must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 445 12th Street, SW, Room TW-A325,

Washington, DC 20554. The filing hours are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries

must be held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes and boxes must be

disposed of before entering the building.

Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service Express Mail and Priority

Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.

U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail must be addressed to 445 12th

Street, SW, Washington DC 20554.

27.

Ex Parte Presentations. The proceeding this Public Notice initiates shall be treated as a

“permit-but-disclose” proceeding in accordance with the Commission’s ex parte rules.73 Persons making

ex parte presentations must file a copy of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any

oral presentation within two business days after the presentation (unless a different deadline applicable to

the Sunshine period applies). Persons making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda

summarizing the presentation must: (1) list all persons attending or otherwise participating in the meeting

at which the ex parte presentation was made; and (2) summarize all data presented and arguments made

during the presentation. If the presentation consisted in whole or in part of the presentation of data or

arguments already reflected in the presenter’s written comments, memoranda or other filings in the

proceeding, the presenter may provide citations to such data or arguments in his or her prior comments,

memoranda, or other filings (specifying the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where such data or

arguments can be found) in lieu of summarizing them in the memorandum. Documents shown or given

to Commission staff during ex parte meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must

be filed consistent with section 1.1206(b) of the Commission’s rules.74 In proceedings governed by

section 1.49(f) of the rules75 or for which the Commission has made available a method of electronic

filing, written ex parte presentations and memoranda summarizing oral ex parte presentations, and all

attachments thereto, must be filed through the electronic comment filing system available for that

proceeding, and must be filed in their native format (e.g., .doc, .xml, .ppt, searchable .pdf). Participants in

this proceeding should familiarize themselves with the Commission’s ex parte rules.

28.

People with Disabilities. To request materials in accessible formats for people with

disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call

the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice) or 202-418-0432 (TTY).

73 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.200 et seq.

74 47 C.F.R. § 1.1206(b).

75 47 C.R.R. § 1.49(f).

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29.

More Information. For further information about this Public Notice, please contact

Jackie Ellington at 202-418-1153 or Jackie.Ellington@fcc.gov, or Rosaline Crawford at 202-418-2075 or

Rosaline.Crawford@fcc.gov, of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Disability Rights

Office, Federal Communications Commission.

- FCC -

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