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VRS Overhaul to Improve Phone Service for Americans With Disabilities

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Released: June 10, 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).




June 10, 2013
Mike Snyder, 202-418-0997



Reforms Will Improve Service by Spurring Innovation and Empowering Consumers to Use Off-the-

Shelf Equipment While Curbing Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

Washington, D.C. The Federal Communications Commission today unanimously adopted
comprehensive reforms to further protect and strengthen the Video Relay Service (VRS) program that
enables people with disabilities to do what most Americans take for granted: make a simple phone call.
The VRS program permits people with hearing and speech disabilities to use American Sign Language to
communicate with other individuals over a broadband connection. Using a video link, an intermediary
called a communications assistant translates the user's signed communications to the hearing person on
the other end of the conversation, and then signs back the spoken words to the user, allowing the
conversation to flow in near real-time. The program is financed through the FCC's Interstate
Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) Fund.
Building on a foundation of ongoing reforms and program improvements, the Order initiates fundamental
restructuring of the program to support innovation and competition, drive down ratepayer and provider
costs, eliminate incentives for waste that have burdened the TRS Fund in the past, and further protect
consumers. Measures to improve the structure and efficiencies of the VRS program while promoting
consumer protection include:
Ensuring that VRS users can easily select their provider of choice by promoting the development
of voluntary, consensus interoperability and portability standards.
Enabling consumers to use off-the-shelf tablets and smart phones for any provider's VRS services
by developing and deploying a VRS application to work with these devices, based on the
consensus standards.
Creating a centralized TRS User Registration Database to combat fraud, waste, and abuse by
ensuring VRS user eligibility.
Encouraging competition and innovation in VRS call handling services such as American Sign
Language interpretation by contracting with a neutral third party to build, operate, and maintain
a platform for communications services.
Spurring research and development on VRS services by entering into a Memorandum of
Understanding with the National Science Foundation.

Piloting an iTRS National Outreach Program that is not dependent on individual provider
branding to educate the general public about relay services.
In addition, the Order moves VRS compensation rates toward actual costs over the next four years,
initiating a step-by-step transition from existing tiered TRS Fund compensation rates toward a unitary,
market-based compensation rate. In this manner, VRS rates will better approximate the actual, reasonable
costs of providing VRS, and will considerably reduce the costs of operating the program. Ensuring the
integrity of the TRS Fund while providing stability and certainty to providers remain core objectives. The
Commission also is proposing to transition to a new ratemaking approach that makes use of competitively
established pricing contract prices set through a competitive bidding process where feasible.
For more information about VRS, visit:


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