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Editorial #54-The Latest from the FCC on VRS--Dr. Z's Observations

Yesterday was a key day in the VRS industry with the FCC issuing three documents and 2 orders. The impact of these, when concluded will be felt for a long time.

The FCC issued a press release (link) and 2 orders: one in which they issued interim rates for 2010-2011 (link) and initiation of a Notice of Inquiry on the VRS Industry (link).

The press release explained the 2 orders, but what was interesting was there was a subheading on the press release indicating that the FCC Commissioners voted unanimously on the orders–“Commission Votes Unanimously on Immediate and Long-Term Approaches.” This indicates the FCC is together and united on the entire process related to VRS. This also indicates both the Republican and Democratic appointees on the Commission are in agreement on this.

On the rates, the FCC decided to make the rates interim–only for one year (2010-2011) instead of 3 years. They feel that the Notice of Inquiry will create a new baseline for the rates and prefer to have future rate setting decisions based on the results of the Notice of Inquiry. They indicated they used a temporary solution for coming up with the revised rates which were higher than the original rates submitted by NECA by using this formula: “averaging NECA’s proposed per-minute rates calculated as a measure of actual, historical provider costs, and the current rates, which were based on providers’ projected costs.” The FCC seems to feel that the current rate setting process does not reflect the true cost of providing VRS as there is a difference between what the VRS providers projected and what the actual costs the FCC paid have consistently been different for the last 4 years with the projected rates higher than the actual rates. So, for all purposes, this year’s rate is a temporary solution. The true and long term rates will come out of the Notice of Inquiry process.

The Notice of Inquiry is a big deal. Dr. Z considers this one of the most important undertakings the FCC will pursue in making communications accessible for deaf and hard of hearing people. It is a very comprehensive document–25 pages. It will ask for feedback on two basic topics: 1) Adjustments and Modifications to Improve the Video Relay Service Compensation Methodology and 2) Broader and Economic Issues Concerning Video Relay Service. In both areas, the FCC is asking a lot of questions that need to be answered by the public in the weeks to come. The Notice of Inquiry is a open process and everyone should feel free to submit comments and feedback. The FCC will take close to a year to complete this process and hopefully conclude this by July 1, 2011. Dr. Z takes the view that this is serious business—a look into VRS from all tangents in a way that has never been done before. It is obvious the FCC has been working on this for a long time and the final details next year will have a major impact on how VRS is delivered to us all.

Dr. Z will in the next few weeks go through the Notice of Inquiry section by section to give you all an opportunity to understand what the FCC is looking at and to allow you to submit comments to the FCC.

Dr. Z (and the FCC) cares about your communication access.

Disclosure: Dr. Z is a contractor working with CSDVRS on several projects.

1 comment to Editorial #54-The Latest from the FCC on VRS–Dr. Z’s Observations

  • Sonny

    The FCC is to be commended for developing a solution that should create an effective and realistic long-term program while continuing current VRS program.

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