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Guest Article-VRS Numbering Update – Consumer Advice and Guidance

Numbering Update – Consumer Advice and Guidance
Karen Peltz-Strauss, Attorney

Are you a VRS user? Then you must register with the VRS provider of your choice by November 12, 2009 to continue making VRS calls after that date. When you register, you will get a 10-digit number. This number will make it easier for you to receive calls from hearing people, because they will only need to dial that number to reach you. When they dial that number, they will automatically be connected to a video interpreter from the company that you have selected as your default (preferred) provider. The call will then be connected to you, without the need for the hearing person to do anything else. After you register, you and other deaf callers will also be able to call each other directly using your 10-digit numbers. It will not matter whether you use the same provider or not – all calls will go through using your 10-digit numbers.

But if you do not register by November 12, you will not be able to make nonemergency calls after that time. (You will be able to still make 9-1-1 calls after November 12, even if you have not registered.)

Why do you need to register? There are two main reasons that the FCC has created the registration requirement. First, when you register, you will be giving your preferred VRS provider your name and address, which will be put into a database. If you need to make a call to 9-1-1, your name and location information will automatically be provided to the VRS interpreter and 9-1-1 operator, which will help you get emergency assistance faster.

Second, the registration requirement was set up to help end fraud by individuals using Internet-based text relay. Unfortunately, some individuals from foreign countries have been using IP relay to make calls involving fake credit cards that have harmed American businesses. In addition, some people in the United States have used IP relay to make crank, or phony phone calls. By having people register, it is hoped that the number of these calls will decline.

The original deadline for registration and ten-digit numbering was June 30, 2009. Why was it extended?

The FCC extended the registration deadline because it was concerned that many consumers were still unaware of the need to register. In order to make sure that VRS and IP relay users could continue making calls, the deadline was extended several months, until November 12. In addition, more time was needed to work out some technical issues associated with the transition to 10-digit numbering.

Here are some more questions that a consumer might ask:

If I already have a 10-digit number that was given to me by a VRS company a few years ago, do I need to do anything?

Yes. If you were given a number a few years ago, more than likely it was a “proxy” or “alias” number. You may have been able to choose your own number, or use the number that you originally had for your TTY. But that 10-digit number was only an assigned number that allowed you to call within a single provider’s network of users. You could not use that number, for example, to call a friend using a different VRS provider than the one you were using, or to make a call from one type of video equipment to another. Also these numbers have not been registered into the national IP relay and VRS database. So even if you have one of these numbers, you still need to call your preferred provider, register, and get a real 10-digit number that is entered into the database.

If IP addresses keep changing, will my number keep changing?

No. Your IP address is the number given to your computer so that it can interact with the Internet. Although most IP addresses change on a regular basis, your 10-digit number will stay the same.

When I make a call, how will the VRS provider that I use know that I am registered?

After you have been assigned a 10-digit number, your IP address will be linked with that number. When you make a call, the VRS interpreter handling the call will automatically be able to see that you are registered because the number will come up on her screen. This will happen if you use newer video equipment, such as any of the Z products, the Ojo, the VP 200 or the MVP. See below for what you need to do if you use older video equipment.

Will I be able to continue making VRS calls with my D-link (Eye to Eye) videophone after November 12?

Yes, you will be able to continue making VRS calls with your D-Link after the registration deadline, so long as you register and get a 10-digit number. But unfortunately, D-links cannot process 10-digit numbers the same way that newer video equipment can. When you make a call with your D-Link, the video interpreter who handles your call will not automatically be able to see that you are registered, so you will have to give that interpreter your 10-digit number at the start of the call.

What will happen if I use a D-Link for a 9-1-1 call?

If you are using one of these devices in an emergency, you will need to give your name and physical location to the interpreter or 9-1-1 center. They will not automatically get this information.

Can I use videophones that I purchase in a retail store to make VRS calls?

Yes, you can use video devices that you buy in a store, but these devices, like the D-Link, will not be able to automatically send your personal information to the interpreter handling the call or to a 9-1-1 center in the event of an emergency. You will need to provide that information at the start of your call.

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