Washington, DC – In order to prevent waste, abuse and fraud, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is moving to reform the certification process for Video Relay Services (VRS).

The newly adopted rules are designed to eliminate the waste, fraud, and abuse that have reportedly plagued theTelecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund, threatening its ability to continue serving Americans with hearing loss who use VRS and Internet telecommunications to communicate with those who do not know sign language.

The FCC’s actions are intended to eliminate illegitimate payments from the TRS Fund to VRS providers. The new rules will ensure that only qualified providers of service are permitted to receive compensation from the Fund, and enable the FCC to improve its oversight of provider operations and achieve better compliance with the TRS Fund rules.

In addition to annual certified provider audits, the new regulations will:

  • Require certified providers to submit a statement describing the location and staffing of their call centers twice a year, and a notification at least 30 days prior to any change in the location of such centers;
  • Prohibit provider’s VRS communications assistants (CAs) from relaying calls from their homes and prohibit VRS providers from tying minutes or calls processed by a CA to compensation provided;
  • Prohibit compensation for VRS calls that originate from IP addresses that indicate the individual initiating the call is located outside of the United States, with the exception of callers who preregister with their default provider for a specified time and location of travel;
  • Prohibit compensation for VRS calls for remote training when the service provider is involved in any way with such training (eg, sponsors, promotes or hosts such training);
  • Prohibit VRS CAs from using visual privacy screens, and require that CAs terminate a VRS call, after providing a warning announcement, if either party to the call enables a privacy screen or similar feature for more than 5 minutes, or is unresponsive or unengaged for more than 5 minutes, unless the call is to 9-1-1 or one of the parties is on hold;
  • Require automated recordkeeping of VRS minutes submitted to the TRS Fund;
  • Require that VRS be offered to the public only in the name of the provider eligible for compensation from the Fund and, when sub-brands are used, that these identify such eligible provider; require that calls to any brand or sub-brand of VRS be routed through a single URL address for that brand or sub-brand;
  • Prohibit revenue sharing agreements for CA or call center functions between entities eligible for compensation from the Fund and non-eligible entities;
  • Prohibit compensation on a per-minute basis for marketing and outreach costs performed through a subcontractor where such services utilize VRS; and
  • Adopt whistleblower protection rules for current and former employees and contractors of the TRS Fund providers.

For further information, contact Greg Hlibok ([email protected]) at the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.

SOURCE: Federal Communications Commission