National Association of the Deaf

FCC Announces Interim VRS Rates & Notice Of Inquiry

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rates for 2010-2011 for Video Relay Services (VRS) and other relay services. The FCC is also starting a comprehensive review of VRS to ensure that this vital program is effective, efficient, and sustainable in the future.

FCC Rates for VRS and Other Relay Services

The FCC approved the following VRS rates for 2010-2011:

$6.24 Tier I (up to 50,000 minutes per month)
$6.23 Tier II (50,000 – 500,000 minutes per month)
$5.07 Tier III (above 500,000 minutes per month)

The FCC also approved the following rates for other relay services for 2010-2011:

$2.03 for interstate TTY relay
$3.16 for Speech-to-Speech relay services
$1.67 for interstate Captioned Telephone Service (CTS) and IP CTS
$1.30 for Internet text relay services (IP Relay)

Read the FCC Rate Order for 2010-2011

NAD Supports FCC Review of VRS

The NAD has long advocated for the FCC to take action to address many VRS issues. The FCC took a big step today by releasing a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking comments about VRS. The focus of this inquiry is on how to improve the way VRS providers are paid and other economic issues. The FCC wants to improve VRS to ensure that VRS is available to all eligible users, encourages innovation, and is provided efficiently. The NAD will respond to the FCC inquiry about these VRS issues to ensure that VRS users achieve functional equivalency.

Read the FCC Notice of Inquiry (June 28, 2010)

The deadline for responding to this FCC inquiry has not yet been set.

A Comprehensive Review

Today’s announcement builds on efforts begun last month, when the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. In that notice, the FCC asked for comments about ways to prevent and detect VRS waste, fraud, and abuse. The NAD will respond to that FCC notice to protect and promote the interests of VRS users.

Read the FCC Press Release (May 27, 2010)

The deadline for responding to that FCC notice has not yet been set.

Special Message from the FCC

As you know, a few weeks ago, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address some VRS issues. After much discussion and deliberation, we are now releasing our Rate Order for the coming TRS Fund Year (July 2010-June 2011), along with a Notice of Inquiry. The Rate Order sets new levels of compensation that are within the range of rates proposed by providers and are closer to their actual costs than past rates. These one-year rates will be in effect while the Commission takes a broader look at the service beginning with the Notice of Inquiry. The Notice of Inquiry seeks your feedback on a number of VRS issues that are designed to strengthen this vital service, both for the immediate future and in the long term. As we have previously stated, the FCC continues to believe that VRS is the most functionally equivalent form of relay for people who communicate using American Sign Language (ASL). We are committed to preserving and protecting the VRS program so that it will continue to meet the communications needs of your community.

Much has evolved in the VRS industry since the FCC first approved this service in 2000. We know that this service has now become the principal form of telephone communication for many of you at your home, at work, and for your routine contacts with family and friends. We join you in praising the benefits that this service has brought, and note that new video technologies offer even greater promise for improving VRS in the coming years. As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we look forward to working with you to take a fresh look at the VRS program, so that we can ensure that our rules fully meet your needs for functionally equivalent service. We eagerly await your feedback on our NOI so we can jointly determine how best this goal of the ADA can be achieved.

Joel Gurin, Bureau Chief
Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau
Federal Communications Commission

Read the FCC Press Release (June 28, 2010)

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