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FCC Raises Relay Service Standards for People with Speech Disabilities

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Released: July 19, 2013

Federal Communications Commission

News Media Information 202 / 418-0500

445 12th Street, S.W.


Washington, D. C. 20554

TTY: 1-888-835-5322

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action.
See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

July 19, 2013
Mike Snyder, 202-418-0997



Improvements of "Speech-to-Speech" Relay Service Will Increase User Satisfaction; Further Notice

Explores Changes to Improve Efficiency of Service

Washington, D.C

. The Federal Communications Commission today raised the standards for providers
of Speech-to-Speech (STS) Relay Service in order to improve the experience for persons with a speech
disability who need the service in order to make telephone calls using their own voice or an assistive
voice device.
Speech-to-speech uses specially trained operators Communications Assistants, or "CAs" to relay the
conversation back and forth between the individual with the speech disability and the other party to the
call. Communications Assistants are trained to understand a variety of speech disorders, which enables
them to repeat what the caller says in a manner that makes the caller's words clear and understandable to
the called party.
The order amends certain mandatory minimum standards to improve Speech-to-Speech TRS, including:

Increasing the time a CA must stay with a call.

For each STS call lasting for 20 minutes or
longer, an STS CA must stay with the call for a minimum of 20 minutes before transferring the
call to another CA. This increases the current minimum period before such a transfer may be
made from 15 to 20 minutes. Establishing effective communication between an STS user and a
CA can require a period of adjustment. Extending the length of time a CA must stay with a call
will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the communications by reducing the number of
instances an STS user would need to re-establish communication with another CA.

Muting option.

Providers must offer STS users the option to mute their voices during an STS
call. Because some users are uncomfortable with having their voices heard by the other party to
the call, this function will give users the option to have the called party hear only the CA's voice.

Dialing 711 to initiate STS calls.

STS callers who dial 711 (the TRS dialing code) must have
the same ease of reaching an STS CA as users of other types of TRS.
The new requirements will go into effect 60 days after their publication in the Federal Register.
In addition to the order, the FCC issued a further notice of proposed rulemaking, seeking comments on:

Whether to contract for a national STS outreach coordinator to conduct all STS outreach

and to eliminate the current per-minute outreach subsidy to STS providers. Similar action
has improved efficiencies for the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Program and will be
implemented for the Video Relay Service (VRS) and Internet Protocol (IP) Relay Programs.

Whether to adopt consumer eligibility, registration and verification for STS

to ensure that
only those who qualify use the service.

Whether to adopt other recommendations made by consumers to improve STS for its users

including the use of caller profiles that help a communications assistant know the communication
preferences of an STS user in advance of a call and the need for a federal advisory committee
dedicated to considering STS issues.

Whether to amend the rules to specify that certain TRS mandatory minimum standards do

not apply to STS, including CA competency in typing and spelling and use of the ASCII and
Baudot formats that are used in TTY transmissions.
Learn more about Speech-to-Speech Relay Service at
Action by the Commission July 19, 2013, by Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking (FCC 13-101). Acting Chairwoman Clyburn, Commissioners Rosenworcel and Pai with
Acting Chairwoman Clyburn, Commissioners Rosenworcel and Pai issuing statements.

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