In a recently announced consent decree, AT&T Inc has agreed to pay $18.25 million to settle an investigation by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau into whether the company improperly billed the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund for IP Relay (Internet-based TRS) calls.

Among the issues under investigation were whether AT&T billed the fund for IP Relay calls by persons whom the company registered for the service without first requiring them to provide basic information, such as their names, and by persons whose registration information the company failed to adequately verify. These registration and verification requirements are designed to protect the program against waste, fraud, and abuse.

The TRS Fund compensates TRS providers for reasonable costs of providing service for interstate calls. TRS is funded from a fee paid by subscribers of interstate telecommunications services, which include cell phones and land lines.

In the consent decree, AT&T agreed to reimburse the TRS Fund $7 million, which includes interest. In addition, AT&T agreed to make a voluntary contribution of $11.25 million to the US Treasury.

The company also agreed to implement a robust compliance plan, including new operating procedures, comprehensive training of its employees and contractors, and periodic reporting requirements.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “Today’s settlement represents the fourth FCC enforcement action to date against Internet-based TRS providers, resulting in payments of nearly $40 million back to the Fund and the US Treasury. The steps taken today will not only ensure the integrity of the program, but also send a strong signal to providers that we will not tolerate abuse of the system.”

The full consent decree is available here