Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) allows persons with who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or who have speech disabilities to place and receive telephone calls. A communications assistant (CA) relays the call back and forth between the person with a disability and the other party to the call. For example, in text-to-voice TRS, a person with hearing loss communicates in text what s/he wishes to communicate to the other party and the CA repeats in voice what the user has typed, and types back to the TRS user what the voice telephone user responds.
There are several forms of TRS that consumers can use, depending on the nature of the disability and whether they have some hearing or can speak. These include traditional TRS, which uses a text telephone or TTY device and a telephone line, Speech-to-Speech (STS), which uses specially trained CAs who can relay difficult-to-understand speech, and Captioned Telephone Service (CTS), which is described below in this consumer guide. CTS is available both over the regular telephone network (the “public switched telephone network) and over the Internet. Two other forms of TRS that use the Internet are Internet Protocol (IP) Relay, in which a person with a disability sends text over the Internet and receives messages back (through the CA) in voice, and Video Relay Service (VRS), in which the person with a disability uses American Sign Language to communicate with a third party through an interpreter who knows sign language. For a more detailed description of the various forms of TRS, see the FCC’s TRS consumer guide.
The Federal Communications Commission has ruled that IP Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) calls are an approved form of TRS that may be compensated from the Interstate TRS Fund. Like all TRS calls, the relay costs associated with IP CTS are not paid directly by users of the service.
The FCC recently established temporary requirements for IP CTS to ensure that the program is provided efficiently to persons with hearing loss who need to use the service. (See Temporary Requirements Section below.)
How IP Captioned Telephone Service Works
IP CTS is essentially a combination of two other forms of TRS: CTS and IP Relay. CTS allows a person with hearing loss but who can use his or her own voice and has some residual hearing, to speak directly to the called party and then listen, to the extent possible, to the other party and simultaneously read captions of what the other party is saying. In the most common set-up of this service, when an IP CTS users places a call over a CTS telephone (which is equipped with special software and a screen for displaying captions), the call is automatically connected both to the receiving party (over the PSTN) and via the Internet to a captioned telephone CA. Once connected, the CA hears and repeats or re-voices everything the other party says, and voice recognition technology automatically transcribes those words from the CA’s voice into text, which is then transmitted directly to the IP CTS user. The use of voice recognition technology allows the captions to appear on the IP CTS user’s telephone, nearly simultaneously with the other party’s spoken words. There are also versions of IP CTS that for use with a smartphone or personal computer.
Benefits of IP Captioned Telephone Service
IP CTS allows persons with hearing loss to take advantage of advancements in communication technologies and Internet connections at their residences and work places to more effectively use the telephone in their jobs. In addition, with some forms of the service, captions can be displayed on a screen in large text, using variable fonts and colors, thus accommodating individuals with hearing disabilities who also have low vision.
To ensure that IP CTS is provided efficiently to persons who need to use this service, the Commission recently established the following requirements on a temporary basis:
- IP CTS providers are prohibited from offering financial and other rewards to consumers, charitable organizations, and audiologists and other professionals for the referral and registration of new IP CTS customers.
- New IP CTS users must self-certify to the provider that (1) they have a hearing loss requiring use of the service to effectively communicate over the phone, (2) they understand that the captioning service is provided by a live CA, and (3) they understand that the cost of the IP CTS calls is funded by the TRS Fund. If the user obtains IP CTS equipment for free or for less than $75, s/he must also provide certification that s/he needs IP CTS to communicate effectively over the phone from a third party professional. However, individuals who spend $75 or more for their end user equipment need only provide self-certification.
- IP CTS phones must have as a default setting that the captions are turned off, so that consumers need to turn on the captions for each call.
Emergency Call Handling Procedures
The FCC has adopted procedures for IP captioned telephone services (CTS) that require the provider, at minimum, to automatically and immediately transfer an emergency call to the appropriate 911 call center or ensure that appropriate personnel are notified of the emergency.
IP CTS providers must also: 1) prioritize emergency calls over nonemergency calls; 2) communicate to the emergency personnel answering the call the name of the TRS user, the location of the emergency, the name of the provider, the CA’s call-back number, and the CA’s identification number; and 3) re-establish contact between the caller and emergency personnel if the call is disconnected.
Filing a Complaint with the FCC
If you have a problem with IP CTS, first try to resolve it with the provider. If you are unable to resolve it directly, you can file a complaint with the FCC. There is no charge for filing a complaint.
You can file your complaint using an online complaint form. You can also file your complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) for TTY; or writing to:
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
What to Include in Your Complaint
The best way to provide all the information the FCC needs to process your complaint is to thoroughly complete the online complaint form. When you open the online complaint form, you will be asked a series of questions that will take you to the particular section of the form you need to complete. If you do not use the online complaint form, your complaint should at least indicate:
- your name, address, email address and phone number where you can be reached;
- whether you are filing a complaint on behalf of another party, and if so, the party’s name, address, email address, day time phone number and your relationship to the party;
- preferred format or method of response (letter, fax, voice phone call, email, TRS, TTY, ASCII text, audio recording or Braille);
- that your complaint is about TRS;
- the name, address and telephone number (if known) of the company or companies involved with your complaint; and
- a brief description of your complaint and the resolution you are seeking, and a full description of the equipment or service you are complaining about, including date of purchase, use or attempt to use.
For More Information
For more information about IP CTS or TRS, or to learn more about FCC programs to promote access to telecommunications services for people with disabilities, visit the FCC’s Disability Rights Office website.
For information about other communications issues, visit the FCC’s Consumer website, or contact the FCC’s Consumer Center using the information provided for filing a complaint.