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Telecommunications Relay Services and Speech-to-Speech Services for Individuals With Hearing and Speech Disabilities

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

This document amends Commission rules governing the delivery of telecommunications relay services to expand the kinds of relay services available to consumers and to improve the quality of relay service. The Commission amended its rules to better conform to the statutory mandate that TRS must be “functionally equivalent” to voice telecommunications service to the extent possible. Among other things, these rules are intended to improve the speed at which calls are answered and conversations relayed.

DATES:

Section 64.604 is effective on June 30, 2000, however compliance is not required until the dates stated in Start Printed Page 38433that section. The remaining sections are effective on December 18, 2000, except for §§ 64.604(b)(2), 64.604(c)(1), §§ 64.604(c)(5)(i), and 64.605(f) which contain information collection that have not been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The Commission will publish a document in the Federal Register announcing the effective date. Written comments by the public on the new information collections are due August 21, 2000.

ADDRESSES:

Federal Communications Commission, 445-12th Street, SW, TW-A325, Washington, DC 20554. In addition to filing comments with the Office of the Secretary, a copy of any comments on the information collections contained herein should be submitted to Judy Boley, Federal Communications Commission, Room 1-C804, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554, or via the Internet to jboley@fcc.gov.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Marilyn Jones, Attorney, 202/418-2357, Fax 202/418-2345, TTY 202/418-0484, majones@fcc.gov, Common Carrier Bureau. For additional information concerning the information collections contained in this document, contact Judy Boley at 202-418-0214, or via the Internet at jboley@fcc.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This is a summary of the Commission's Report and Order (Report and Order) in the Matter of Telecommunications Relay Services and Speech-to-Speech Services for Individuals with Hearing and Speech Disabilities, CC Docket No. 98-67, FCC 00-56, adopted February 17, 2000 and released March 6, 2000. The full text of the item is available for inspection and copying during the weekday hours of 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the FCC Reference Center, Room CY-A257, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554, or copies may be purchased from the Commission's copy contractor, International Transcription Services, Inc., 445 12th Street, SW, Suite CY-B400, Washington, DC 20554, phone (202) 857-3800. This Report and Order contains new or modified information collections subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), Public Law 104-13. It will be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review under section 3507(d) of the PRA. OMB, the general public, and other Federal agencies are invited to comment on the new or modified information collections contained in this proceeding.

Synopsis of the Report and Order

1. In January 1997, we released a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on the quality of TRS service. Based on the record developed in the NOI, the Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposed rules to enhance the quality of telecommunications relay service. In response, the Commission received numerous suggestions on ways to improve TRS. After considering the many comments received, we released this Report and Order. These rules will greatly improve the quality of TRS and fulfill section 225's mandate by increasing the availability and usefulness of the telecommunications system for Americans with speech and hearing disabilities.

2. Specifically, in the Report and Order, we find that the statutory definition of telecommunications relay services is not limited to relay services using a TTY, and includes STS, VRI and non-English language relay services; require that common carriers provide STS and interstate Spanish relay services by March 1, 2001; do not require VRI, but encourage it by permitting the recovery of the costs of both intrastate and interstate VRI calls from the interstate TRS Fund.

3. Speech-to-speech relay service, or STS, involves the use of specially trained CAs who understand the speech patterns of persons with speech disabilities and can repeat the words spoken. The availability of STS gives persons with certain speech disabilities an efficient alternative to using a TTY, which requires the purchase and use of TTY hardware and which also can be a cumbersome form of conversation given the typing involved. Video relay interpreting, or VRI, allows TRS users with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate with voice telephone users through video equipment installed at the user's premises and at the relay center. This video link allows a CA to view and interpret the caller's sign language and relay the conversation to a voice caller.

4. In addition, in the Report and Order, we require that all relay services, whether mandatory or voluntary, funded by intrastate and interstate TRS Funds must comply with minimum service quality standards, which modifies the rules to accommodate STS and VRI service.

5. To improve the minimum standards for TRS, we modify the speed of answer requirement so that consumers will reach a communications assistant more quickly; impose a minimum typing speed of 60 wpm for CAs in order to speed the transmission of calls using TTYs; and amend the rules to minimize disruption during relay calls by establishing a minimum time that a CA must stay with a call.

6. The remainder of the Report and Order establishes that information gathered by relay providers on individual caller preferences and used to complete TRS calls is not customer proprietary network information (CPNI) under section 222 of the Act, must be transferred during a change in TRS provider and cannot be used for any purpose other than the handling of TRS calls; requires TRS providers to automatically and immediately transfer emergency calls to the appropriate 911 operator and relay the caller's number to the operator orally; clarifies that the existing rule requires outreach to all callers and for all forms of TRS; concludes that section 225 by its terms does not prohibit us from requiring relay services to accommodate enhanced or information services; requires states to notify the Commission about substantive changes in their TRS programs within 60 days of when they occur; adopts the Commission's informal complaint process for TRS complaints; and requires state programs and interstate TRS providers to maintain a log of consumer complaints that allege a violation of the minimum standards and annually report to the FCC the number of complaints received.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995

7. As required by the Paperwork Reduction of 1995, the NPRM invited the general public and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to comment on the proposed information collection requirements contained in the NPRM. The changes to our information collection requirements on which we sought comment in the NPRM included the requirement that, except during network failure, TRS shall answer 85% of all calls by a CA prepared to place the TRS call, within 10 seconds of the time the incoming call reaches the TRS provider's network, and no more than 30 seconds shall elapse between receipt of dialing information and the dialing of the requested number. This calculation is required to be performed daily.

8. OMB's comment on this requirement urges us to explore the use of alternative means, including statistical sampling or periodic performance monitoring, to ensure that the ten second answering portion of the requirement is met, rather than require TRS operators to calculate response times as set forth in 47 CFR 64.604(b)(2). Because of the nature of the requirement that the calculation measures, we feel that statistical sampling or periodic performance monitoring will be inappropriate and inadequate. This Start Printed Page 38434requirement has been misinterpreted and misapplied by some TRS providers and our modification seeks to decrease the likelihood that the misinterpretation continues. We note that the speed-of-answer requirement is an existing rule and that, in this Report and Order, we simply modify that rule to further minimize delays in placing TRS calls. The new rule now forecloses the possibility that the TRS call will be placed in a distribution queue for a long period of time by requiring that a TRS call be handled immediately, whether by CA or an automated process.

9. In addition, OMB states that we must demonstrate that calculating the speed-of-answer on a daily basis has some practical utility to justify the burden it imposes. As set forth in this Report and Order, our main goal is to make the TRS calling experience functionally equivalent to the experience of voice callers. By modifying our speed-of-answer requirement to result in the TRS call being placed more quickly, we feel we meet that goal. As the Report and Order explains, reaching a CA ready to place the relay call is equivalent to getting a dial tone when picking up the phone. Thus, this portion of the call is the first crucial step to making the TRS calling experience functionally equivalent to placing a voice call and should be demonstrated daily.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

10. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 603, an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was incorporated in the NPRM in this docket. The Commission sought written public comment on the proposals in the NPRM, including comment on the IRFA. This present Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) conforms to the RFA, 5 U.S.C. 604.

A. Need for, and Objectives of, the Proposed Rules

1. This rulemaking proceeding was initiated in order to improve the level and quality of service provided through TRS for the benefit of the community of TRS users. The Commission's goal was to improve the overall effectiveness of the TRS program, and to improve the Commission's oversight of certified state TRS programs and its ability to compel compliance with the federal mandatory minimum standards for TRS.

B. Summary of Significant Issues Raised by Public Comments in Response to the IRFA

12. None.

C. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which the Rules Will Apply

13. The RFA directs agencies to provide a description of, and, where feasible, an estimate of the number of small entities that may be affected by the proposed rules, if adopted. 5 U.S.C. 603(b)(3). The Regulatory Flexibility Act defines the term “small entity” as having the same meaning as the terms “small business,” “small organization,” and “small business concern” under section 3 of the Small Business Act. 5 U.S.C. 601(3). A small business concern is one that: (1) Is independently owned and operated; (2) is not dominant in its field of operation; and (3) satisfies any additional criteria established by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 632 (1996). The most reliable source of information regarding the total numbers of certain common carrier and related providers nationwide, as well as the numbers of commercial wireless entities, appears to be data the Commission publishes annually in its Telecommunications Industry Revenue report, regarding the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS). Telecommunications Industry Revenue, Figure 2.

14. TRS Providers. Neither the Commission nor the SBA has developed a definition of small entity specifically applicable to providers of telecommunications relay services (TRS). The closest applicable definition under the SBA rules is for telephone communications companies other than radiotelephone (wireless) companies. Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 632 (1996). The SBA defines such establishments to be small businesses when they have no more than 1,500 employees. 13 CFR 121.201, Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code 4813. According to our most recent data, there are 11 interstate TRS providers, which consist of interexchange carriers, local exchange carriers, state-managed entities, and non-profit organizations. We do not have data specifying the number of these providers that are either dominant in their field of operations, are not independently owned and operated, or have more than 1,500 employees, and we are thus unable at this time to estimate with greater precision the number of TRS providers that would qualify as small business concerns under the SBA's definition. We note, however, that these providers include large interexchange carriers and incumbent local exchange carriers. Consequently, we estimate that there are fewer than 11 small TRS providers that may be affected by the final rules.

D. Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements

15. Reporting and Recordkeeping: This Report and Order involves several reporting requirements. First, it requires that certified states notify the Commission of substantive changes in their state TRS program within 60 days of the effective date of the change. Second, states are required to file documentation demonstrating that the state TRS program remains in compliance with the Commission's mandatory minimum standards following the substantive change. Third, the Report and Order requires TRS administrators to submit the name and address of a contact person or office for filing consumer complaints about intrastate TRS service to the Commission by June 30, 2000. Finally, on an annual basis, beginning May 1, 2001, and upon the Commission's request, states are required to file a copy of their TRS complaint logs.

16. Other Compliance Requirements: The rules adopted in this Report and Order require that all common carriers providing voice transmission services must ensure that STS services are available to callers with speech disabilities throughout their service areas within one year of the publication in the Federal Register of this Report and Order. These rules will affect certified states. The rules also require that TRS calls be answered more promptly, that a minimum typing speed be implemented, and that communications assistants stay with a TTY TRS call for a minimum of ten minutes. These rules will affect TRS providers.

E. Steps Taken To Minimize Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities, and Significant Alternatives Considered

17. The RFA requires an agency to describe any significant alternatives that it has considered in reaching its proposed approach, which may include the following four alternatives: (1) The establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the resources available to small entities: (2) the clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance or reporting requirements under the rule for small entities; (3) the use of performance, rather than design, standards; and (4) an exemption from coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for small entities. The proposals in the NPRM, and the comments the Start Printed Page 38435Commission sought regarding them, are part of the Commission's analysis of its role with respect to the implementation and operation of nationwide TRS for persons with hearing and speech disabilities. The guiding principal shaping our final conclusions is Congress' direction that TRS keeps pace with advancing technology and that the Commission's rules do not discourage the implementation of technological advances or improvements. Large interexchange carriers and incumbent local exchange carriers provide the majority of TRS service, and we believe that the number of small entities impacted by our conclusions would be potentially very small. With respect to the amendments to the Commission's rules governing TRS, by statute, common carriers providing voice transmission services who are subject to the TRS rules, including small entities, may comply with their obligations individually, through designees, through a competitively selected vendor, or in concert with other carriers. For these reasons, we conclude that the rule amendments will have a minimal impact on small entities.

18. Report to Congress: The Commission will send a copy of this Report and Order, including this FRFA, in a report to be sent to Congress pursuant to the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, see 5 U.S.C. 801 (a)(1)(A). In addition, the Commission will send a copy of this Report and Order, including FRFA, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration. A copy of the Report and Order, and FRFA (or summaries thereof) will also be published in the Federal Register. See 5 U.S.C. 604(b).

Ordering Clauses

19. Accordingly, pursuant to authority found in sections 1, 4(i) and 4(j), 201-205, 218 and 225 of the Communications Act as amended, 47 U.S.C. 151, 154(i), 154(j), 201-205, 218 and 225, part 64 of the Commission's rules are amended.

20. The amendments to sections 64.601 through 64.605 of the Commission's rules (other than the amendments to sections 64.604(c)(2) and 64.604(c)(7)), effective 180 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. The amendments to section 64.604(c)(2) of the Commission's rules shall be effective June 30, 2000. The amendments to section 64.604(c)(7) of the Commission's rules shall be effective 30 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. The action contained herein has been analyzed with respect to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and found to impose new or modified reporting and/or recordkeeping requirements or burdens on the public. Implementation of these new reporting and/or recordkeeping requirements will be subject to approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMD) as prescribed by the Act, and will go into effect upon announcement in the Federal Register of OMB approval.

21. The Commission's Consumer Information Bureau, Reference Information Center, Shall Send a copy of this Report and Order, including the Final Regulatory Flexibility Analyses, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of Small Business Administration.

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List of Subjects in 47 CFR Part 64

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Federal Communications Commission.

Magalie Roman Salas,

Secretary.

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Rule Changes

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For reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal Communications Commission amends part 64 of title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations as follows:

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PART 64—MISCELLANEOUS RULES RELATING TO COMMON CARRIERS

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1. The authority citation for part 64 is amended to read as follows:

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Authority: 47 U.S.C. 151, 154, 201, 202, 205, 218-220, and 332 unless otherwise noted. Interpret or apply sections 201, 218, 225, 226, 227, 229, 332, 48 Stat. 1070, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 2201-204, 208, 225, 226, 227, 229, 332, 501 and 503 unless otherwise noted.

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2. Revise § 64.601 to read as follows:

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Definitions.

As used in this subpart, the following definitions apply:

1. American Sign Language (ASL). A visual language based on hand shape, position, movement, and orientation of the hands in relation to each other and the body.

(2) ASCII. An acronym for American Standard Code for Information Interexchange which employs an eight bit code and can operate at any standard transmission baud rate including 300, 1200, 2400, and higher.

(3) Baudot. A seven bit code, only five of which are information bits. Baudot is used by some text telephones to communicate with each other at a 45.5 baud rate.

(4) Common carrier or carrier. Any common carrier engaged in interstate Communication by wire or radio as defined in section 3(h) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the Act), and any common carrier engaged in intrastate communication by wire or radio, notwithstanding sections 2(b) and 221(b) of the Act.

(5) Communications assistant (CA). A person who transliterates or interprets conversation between two end users of TRS. CA supersedes the term “TDD operator.”

(6) Hearing carry over (HCO). A reduced form of TRS where the person with the speech disability is able to listen to the other end user and, in reply, the CA speaks the text as typed by the person with the speech disability. The CA does not type any conversation.

(7) Telecommunications relay services (TRS). Telephone transmission services that provide the ability for an individual who has a hearing or speech disability to engage in communication by wire or radio with a hearing individual in a manner that is functionally equivalent to the ability of an individual who does not have a hearing or speech disability to communicate using voice communication services by wire or radio. Such term includes services that enable two-way communication between an individual who uses a text telephone or other nonvoice terminal device and an individual who does not use such a device, speech-to-speech services, video relay services and non-English relay services. TRS supersedes the terms “dual party relay system,” “message relay services,” and “TDD Relay.”

(8) Text telephone (TTY). A machine that employs graphic communication in the transmission of coded signals through a wire or radio communication system. TTY supersedes the term “TDD” or “telecommunications device for the deaf,” and TT.

(9) Voice carry over (VCO). A reduced form of TRS where the person with the hearing disability is able to speak directly to the other end user. The CA types the response back to the person with the hearing disability. The CA does not voice the conversation.

(10) Speech-to-speech relay service (STS). A telecommunications relay service that allows people with speech disabilities to communicate with voice telephone users through the use of specially trained CAs who understand the speech patterns of persons with disabilities and can repeat the words spoken by that person.

(11) Video relay service (VRS). A telecommunications relay service that allows people with hearing or speech disabilities who use sign language to Start Printed Page 38436communicate with voice telephone users through video equipment. The video link allows the CA to view and interpret the party's signed conversation and relay the conversation back and forth with a voice caller.

(12) Non-English language relay service. A telecommunications relay service that allows persons with hearing or speech disabilities who use languages other than English to communicate with voice telephone users in a shared language other than English, through a CA who is fluent in that language.

(13) Qualified interpreter. An interpreter who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.

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3. Revise § 64.602 to read as follows:

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Jurisdiction.

Any violation of this subpart F by any common carrier engaged in intrastate communication shall be subject to the same remedies, penalties, and procedures as are applicable to a violation of the Act by a common carrier engaged in interstate communication.

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4. Revise § 64.603 to read as follows:

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Provision of services.

Each common carrier providing telephone voice transmission services shall provide, not later than July 26, 1993, in compliance with the regulations prescribed herein, throughout the area in which it offers services, telecommunications relay services, individually, through designees, through a competitively selected vendor, or in concert with other carriers. Speech-to-speech relay service and interstate Spanish language relay service shall be provided by March 1, 2001. A common carrier shall be considered to be in compliance with these regulations:

(a) With respect to intrastate telecommunications relay services in any state that does not have a certified program under § 64.605 and with respect to interstate telecommunications relay services, if such common carrier (or other entity through which the carrier is providing such relay services) is in compliance with § 64.604; or

(b) With respect to intrastate telecommunications relay services in any state that has a certified program under § 64.605 for such state, if such common carrier (or other entity through which the carrier is providing such relay services) is in compliance with the program certified under § 64.605 for such state.

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5. Revise § 64.604 to read as follows:

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Mandatory minimum standards.

The standards in this section are applicable December 18, 2000, except as stated in paragraphs (c)(2) and (c)(7) of this section.

(a) Operational standards—(1) Communications assistant (CA). TRS providers are responsible for requiring that CAs be sufficiently trained to effectively meet the specialized communications needs of individuals with hearing and speech disabilities; and that CAs have competent skills in typing, grammar, spelling, interpretation of typewritten ASL, and familiarity with hearing and speech disability cultures, languages and etiquette. CAs must possess clear and articulate voice communications. CAs must provide a typing speed of a minimum of 60 words per minute. Technological aids may be used to reach the required typing speed. Providers must give oral-to-type tests of CA speed. TRS providers are responsible for requiring that VRS CAs are qualified interpreters. A “qualified interpreter” is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.

2. Confidentiality and conversation content. (i) Except as authorized by section 705 of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 605, CAs are prohibited from disclosing the content of any relayed conversation regardless of content, and with a limited exception for STS CAs, from keeping records of the content of any conversation beyond the duration of a call, even if to do so would be inconsistent with state or local law. STS CAs may retain information from a particular call in order to facilitate the completion of consecutive calls, at the request of the user. The caller may request the STS CA to retain such information, or the CA may ask the caller if he wants the CA to repeat the same information during subsequent calls. The CA may retain the information only for as long as it takes to complete the subsequent calls.

(ii) CAs are prohibited from intentionally altering a relayed conversation and, to the extent that it is not inconsistent with federal, state or local law regarding use of telephone company facilities for illegal purposes, must relay all conversation verbatim unless the relay user specifically requests summarization, or if the user requests interpretation of an ASL call. An STS CA may facilitate the call of an STS user with a speech disability so long as the CA does not interfere with the independence of the user, the user maintains control of the conversation, and the user does not object. Appropriate measures must be taken by relay providers to ensure that confidentiality of VRS users is maintained.

(3) Types of calls. Consistent with the obligations of common carrier operators, CAs are prohibited from refusing single or sequential calls or limiting the length of calls utilizing relay services. TRS shall be capable of handling any type of call normally provided by common carriers and the burden of proving the infeasibility of handling any type of call will be placed on the carriers. Providers of TRS are permitted to decline to complete a call because credit authorization is denied.

(4) Handling of emergency calls. Providers must use a system for incoming emergency calls that, at a minimum, automatically and immediately transfers the caller to the nearest Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). In addition, a CA must pass along the caller's telephone number to the PSAP when a caller disconnects before being connected to emergency services.

(5) In-call replacement of CAs. CAs answering and placing a TTY-based TRS or VRS call must stay with the call for a minimum of ten minutes. CAs answering and placing an STS call must stay with the call for a minimum of fifteen minutes.

(6) CA gender preferences. TRS providers must make best efforts to accommodate a TRS user's requested CA gender when a call is initiated and, if a transfer occurs, at the time the call is transferred to another CA.

(7) STS called numbers. Relay providers must offer STS users the option to maintain at the relay center a list of names and telephone numbers which the STS user calls. When the STS user requests one of these names, the CA must repeat the name and state the telephone number to the STS user. This information must be transferred to any new STS provider.

(b) Technical standards— (1) ASCII and Baudot. TRS shall be capable of communicating with ASCII and Baudot format, at any speed generally in use.

(2) Speed of answer. TRS shall include adequate staffing to provide callers with efficient access under projected calling volumes, so that the probability of a busy response due to CA unavailability shall be functionally equivalent to what a voice caller would experience in attempting to reach a party through the voice telephone network. TRS shall, except during network failure, answer 85% of all calls within 10 seconds by any method which results in the caller's call immediately being placed, not put in a queue or on hold. The ten seconds begins at the time Start Printed Page 38437the call is delivered to the TRS center's network. The call is considered delivered when the relay center's equipment accepts the call from the local exchange carrier and the public switched network actually delivers the call to the TRS center. Abandoned calls shall be included in the speed-of-answer calculation. A provider's compliance with this rule shall be measured on a daily basis. The system shall be designed to a P.01 standard. A LEC shall provide the call attempt rates and the rates of calls blocked between the LEC and the relay center to relay administrators and relay centers upon request.

(3) Equal access to interexchange carriers. TRS users shall have access to their chosen interexchange carrier through the TRS, and to all other operator services, to the same extent that such access is provided to voice users.

(4) TRS facilities. TRS shall operate every day, 24 hours a day. TRS shall have redundancy features functionally equivalent to the equipment in normal central offices, including uninterruptible power for emergency use. TRS shall transmit conversations between TTY and voice callers in real time. Adequate network facilities shall be used in conjunction with TRS so that under projected calling volume the probability of a busy response due to loop trunk congestion shall be functionally equivalent to what a voice caller would experience in attempting to reach a party through the voice telephone network. Relay services that are not mandated by this Commission are not required to be provided every day, 24 hours a day.

(5) Technology. No regulation set forth in this subpart is intended to discourage or impair the development of improved technology that fosters the availability of telecommunications to person with disabilities. VCO and HCO technology are required to be standard features of TRS.

(6) Voice mail and interactive menus. CAs must alert the TRS user to the presence of a recorded message and interactive menu through a hot key on the CA's terminal. The hot key will send text from the CA to the consumer's TTY indicating that a recording or interactive menu has been encountered. Relay providers shall electronically capture recorded messages and retain them for the length of the call. Relay providers may not impose any charges for additional calls which must be made by the relay user in order to complete calls involving recorded or interactive messages. Relay services shall be capable of handling pay-per-call calls.

(c) Functional standards— (1) Consumer complaint logs.

(i) States and interstate providers must maintain a log of consumer complaints including all complaints about TRS in the state, whether filed with the TRS provider or the State, and must retain the log until the next application for certification is granted. The log shall include, at a minimum, the date the complaint was filed, the nature of the complaint, the date of resolution, and an explanation of the resolution.

(ii) Beginning July 1, 2002, states and TRS providers shall submit summaries of logs indicating the number of complaints received for the 12-month period ending May 31 to the Commission by July 1 of each year. Summaries of logs submitted to the Commission on July 1, 2001 shall indicate the number of complaints received from the date of OMB approval through May 31, 2001.

(2) Contact persons—(i) Beginning on June 30, 2000, states must submit to the Commission a contact person or office for TRS consumer information and complaints about intrastate TRS. This submission must include, at a minimum, the name and address of the state office that receives complaints, grievances, inquiries and suggestions, voice and TTY telephone numbers, fax number, e-mail address, and physical address to which correspondence should be sent.

(ii) Beginning on June 30, 2000, providers of interstate TRS and relay providers having state TRS contracts must submit to the Commission a contact person or office for TRS consumer information and complaints about the provider's service. This submission must include, at a minimum, the name and address of the office that receives complaints, grievances, inquiries and suggestions, voice and TTY telephone numbers, fax number, e-mail address, and physical address to which correspondence should be sent.

(3) Public access to information. Carriers, through publication in their directories, periodic billing inserts, placement of TRS instructions in telephone directories, through directory assistance services, and incorporation of TTY numbers in telephone directories, shall assure that callers in their service areas are aware of the availability and use of all forms of TRS. Efforts to educate the public about TRS should extend to all segments of the public, including individuals who are hard of hearing, speech disabled, and senior citizens as well as members of the general population.

(4) Rates. TRS users shall pay rates no greater than the rates paid for functionally equivalent voice communication services with respect to such factors as the duration of the call, the time of day, and the distance from the point of origination to the point of termination.

(5) Jurisdictional separation of costs—(i) General. Where appropriate, costs of providing TRS shall be separated in accordance with the jurisdictional separation procedures and standards set forth in the Commission's regulations adopted pursuant to section 410 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended.

(ii) Cost recovery. Costs caused by interstate TRS shall be recovered from all subscribers for every interstate service, utilizing a shared-funding cost recovery mechanism. Except as noted in this paragraph, with respect to VRS, costs caused by intrastate TRS shall be recovered from the intrastate jurisdiction. In a state that has a certified program under § 64.605, the state agency providing TRS shall, through the state's regulatory agency, permit a common carrier to recover costs incurred in providing TRS by a method consistent with the requirements of this section. Costs caused by the provision of interstate and intrastate VRS shall be recovered from all subscribers for every interstate service, utilizing a shared-funding cost recovery mechanism.

(iii) Telecommunications Relay Services Fund. Effective July 26, 1993, an Interstate Cost Recovery Plan, hereinafter referred to as the TRS Fund, shall be administered by an entity selected by the Commission (administrator). The initial administrator, for an interim period, will be the National Exchange Carrier Association, Inc.

(A) Contributions. Every carrier providing interstate telecommunications services shall contribute to the TRS Fund on the basis of interstate end-user telecommunications revenues as described herein. Contributions shall be made by all carriers who provide interstate services, including, but not limited to, cellular telephone and paging, mobile radio, operator services, personal communications service (PCS), access (including subscriber line charges), alternative access and special access, packet-switched, WATS, 800, 900, message telephone service (MTS), private line, telex, telegraph, video, satellite, intraLATA, international and resale services.

(B) Contribution computations. Contributors' contribution to the TRS fund shall be the product of their Start Printed Page 38438subject revenues for the prior calendar year and a contribution factor determined annually by the Commission. The contribution factor shall be based on the ratio between expected TRS Fund expenses to interstate end-user telecommunications revenues. In the event that contributions exceed TRS payments and administrative costs, the contribution factor for the following year will be adjusted by an appropriate amount, taking into consideration projected cost and usage changes. In the event that contributions are inadequate, the fund administrator may request authority from the Commission to borrow funds commercially, with such debt secured by future years' contributions. Each subject carrier must contribute at least $25 per year. Carriers whose annual contributions total less than $1,200 must pay the entire contribution at the beginning of the contribution period. Service providers whose contributions total $1,200 or more may divide their contributions into equal monthly payments. Carriers shall complete and submit, and contributions shall be based on, a “Telecommunications Reporting Worksheet” (as published by the Commission in the Federal Register). The worksheet shall be certified to by an officer of the contributor, and subject to verification by the Commission or the administrator at the discretion of the Commission. Contributors' statements in the worksheet shall be subject to the provisions of section 220 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended. The fund administrator may bill contributors a separate assessment for reasonable administrative expenses and interest resulting from improper filing or overdue contributions. The Chief of the Common Carrier Bureau may waive, reduce, modify or eliminate contributor reporting requirements that prove unnecessary and require additional reporting requirements that the Bureau deems necessary to the sound and efficient administration of the TRS Fund.

(C) Data collection from TRS Providers. TRS providers shall provide the administrator with true and adequate data necessary to determine TRS fund revenue requirements and payments. TRS providers shall provide the administrator with the following: total TRS minutes of use, total interstate TRS minutes of use, total TRS operating expenses and total TRS investment in general accordance with part 32 of the Communications Act, and other historical or projected information reasonably requested by the administrator for purposes of computing payments and revenue requirements. The administrator and the Commission shall have the authority to examine, verify and audit data received from TRS providers as necessary to assure the accuracy and integrity of fund payments.

(D) The TRS Fund will be subject to a yearly audit performed by an independent certified accounting firm or the Commission, or both.

(E) Payments to TRS Providers. TRS Fund payments shall be distributed to TRS providers based on formulas approved or modified by the Commission. The administrator shall file schedules of payment formulas with the Commission. Such formulas shall be designed to compensate TRS providers for reasonable costs of providing interstate TRS, and shall be subject to Commission approval. Such formulas shall be based on total monthly interstate TRS minutes of use. TRS minutes of use for purposes of interstate cost recovery under the TRS Fund are defined as the minutes of use for completed interstate TRS calls placed through the TRS center beginning after call set-up and concluding after the last message call unit. In addition to the data required under paragraph (c)(5)(iii)(C) of this section, all TRS providers, including providers who are not interexchange carriers, local exchange carriers, or certified state relay providers, must submit reports of interstate TRS minutes of use to the administrator in order to receive payments. The administrator shall establish procedures to verify payment claims, and may suspend or delay payments to a TRS provider if the TRS provider fails to provide adequate verification of payment upon reasonable request, or if directed by the Commission to do so. The TRS Fund administrator shall make payments only to eligible TRS providers operating pursuant to the mandatory minimum standards as required in § 64.604, and after disbursements to the administrator for reasonable expenses incurred by it in connection with TRS Fund administration. TRS providers receiving payments shall file a form prescribed by the administrator. The administrator shall fashion a form that is consistent with parts 32 and 36 procedures reasonably tailored to meet the needs of TRS providers. The Commission shall have authority to audit providers and have access to all data, including carrier specific data, collected by the fund administrator. The fund administrator shall have authority to audit TRS providers reporting data to the administrator. The formulas should appropriately compensate interstate providers for the provision of VRS, whether intrastate or interstate.

(F) TRS providers eligible for receiving payments from the TRS Fund are:

(1) TRS facilities operated under contract with and/or by certified state TRS programs pursuant to § 64.605; or

(2) TRS facilities owned by or operated under contract with a common carrier providing interstate services operated pursuant to § 64.604; or

(3) Interstate common carriers offering TRS pursuant to § 64.604.

(G) Any eligible TRS provider as defined in paragraph (c)(5)(iii)(F) of this section shall notify the administrator of its intent to participate in the TRS Fund thirty (30) days prior to submitting reports of TRS interstate minutes of use in order to receive payment settlements for interstate TRS, and failure to file may exclude the TRS provider from eligibility for the year.

(H) Administrator reporting, monitoring, and filing requirements. The administrator shall perform all filing and reporting functions required under paragraphs (c)(5)(iii)(A) through (J) of this section. TRS payment formulas and revenue requirements shall be filed with the Commission on May 1 of each year, to be effective for a one-year period beginning the following July 1. The administrator shall report annually to the Commission an itemization of monthly administrative costs which shall consist of all expenses, receipts, and payments associated with the administration of TRS Fund. The administrator is required to keep the TRS Fund separate from all other funds administered by the administrator, shall file a cost allocation manual (CAM), and shall provide the Commission full access to all data collected pursuant to the administration of the TRS Fund. The administrator shall establish a non-paid, voluntary advisory committee of persons from the hearing and speech disability community, TRS users (voice and text telephone), interstate service providers, state representatives, and TRS providers, which will meet at reasonable intervals (at least semi-annually) in order to monitor TRS cost recovery matters. Each group shall select its own representative to the committee. The administrator's annual report shall include a discussion of advisory committee deliberations.

(I) Information filed with the administrator. The administrator shall keep all data obtained from contributors and TRS providers confidential and shall not disclose such data in company-specific form unless directed to do so by the Commission. Subject to Start Printed Page 38439any restrictions imposed by the Chief of the Common Carrier Bureau, the TRS Fund administrator may share data obtained from carriers with the administrators of the universal support mechanisms (See 47 CFR 54.701 of this chapter), the North American Numbering Plan administration cost recovery (See 47 CFR 52.16 of this chapter), and the long-term local number portability cost recovery (See 47 CFR 52.32 of this chapter). The TRS Fund administrator shall keep confidential all data obtained from other administrators. The administrator shall not use such data except for purposes of administering the TRS Fund, calculating the regulatory fees of interstate common carriers, and aggregating such fee payments for submission to the Commission. The Commission shall have access to all data reported to the administrator, and authority to audit TRS providers. Contributors may make requests for Commission nondisclosure of company-specific revenue information under § 0.459 of this chapter by so indicating on the Telecommunications Reporting Worksheet at the time that the subject data are submitted. The Commission shall make all decisions regarding nondisclosure of company-specific information.

(J) The administrator's performance and this plan shall be reviewed by the Commission after two years.

(K) All parties providing services or contributions or receiving payments under this section are subject to the enforcement provisions specified in the Communications Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Commission's rules.

(6) Complaints—(i) Referral of complaint. If a complaint to the Commission alleges a violation of this subpart with respect to intrastate TRS within a state and certification of the program of such state under § 64.605 is in effect, the Commission shall refer such complaint to such state expeditiously.

(ii) Intrastate complaints shall be resolved by the state within 180 days after the complaint is first filed with a state entity, regardless of whether it is filed with the state relay administrator, a state PUC, the relay provider, or with any other state entity.

(iii) Jurisdiction of Commission. After referring a complaint to a state entity under paragraph (c)(6)(i) of this section, or if a complaint is filed directly with a state entity, the Commission shall exercise jurisdiction over such complaint only if:

(A) Final action under such state program has not been taken within:

(1) 180 days after the complaint is filed with such state entity; or

(2) A shorter period as prescribed by the regulations of such state; or

(B) The Commission determines that such state program is no longer qualified for certification under § 64.605.

(iv) The Commission shall resolve within 180 days after the complaint is filed with the Commission any interstate TRS complaint alleging a violation of section 225 of the Act or any complaint involving intrastate relay services in states without a certified program. The Commission shall resolve intrastate complaints over which it exercises jurisdiction under paragraph (c)(6)(iii) of this section within 180 days.

(v) Complaint Procedures. Complaints against TRS providers for alleged violations of this subpart may be either informal or formal.

(A) Informal Complaints.

(1) Form. An informal complaint may be transmitted to the Consumer Information Bureau by any reasonable means, such as letter, facsimile transmission, telephone (voice/TRS/TTY), Internet e-mail, or some other method that would best accommodate a complainant's hearing or speech disability.

(2) Content. An informal complaint shall include the name and address of the complainant; the name and address of the TRS provider against whom the complaint is made; a statement of facts supporting the complainant's allegation that the TRS provided it has violated or is violating section 225 of the Act and/or requirements under the Commission's rules; the specific relief or satisfaction sought by the complainant; and the complainant's preferred format or method of response to the complaint by the Commission and the defendant TRS provider (such as letter, facsimile transmission, telephone (voice/TRS/TTY), Internet e-mail, or some other method that would best accommodate the complainant's hearing or speech disability).

(3) Service; designation of agents. The Commission shall promptly forward any complaint meeting the requirements of this subsection to the TRS provider named in the complaint. Such TRS provider shall be called upon to satisfy or answer the complaint within the time specified by the Commission. Every TRS provider shall file with the Commission a statement designating an agent or agents whose principal responsibility will be to receive all complaints, inquiries, orders, decisions, and notices and other pronouncements forwarded by the Commission. Such designation shall include a name or department designation, business address, telephone number (voice and TTY), facsimile number and, if available, internet e-mail address.

(B) Review and disposition of informal complaints. (1) Where it appears from the TRS provider's answer, or from other communications with the parties, that an informal complaint has been satisfied, the Commission may, in its discretion, consider the matter closed without response to the complainant or defendant. In all other cases, the Commission shall inform the parties of its review and disposition of a complaint filed under this subpart. Where practicable, this information shall be transmitted to the complainant and defendant in the manner requested by the complainant (e.g., letter, facsmile transmission, telephone (voice/TRS/TTY) or Internet e-mail.

(2) A complainant unsatisfied with the defendant's response to the informal complaint and the staff's decision to terminate action on the informal complaint may file a formal complaint with the Commission pursuant to paragraph (c)(6)(v)(C) of this section.

(C) Formal complaints. A formal complaint shall be in writing, addressed to the Federal Communications Commission, Enforcement Bureau, Telecommunications Consumer Division, Washington, DC 20554 and shall contain:

(1) The name and address of the complainant,

(2) The name and address of the defendant against whom the complaint is made,

(3) A complete statement of the facts, including supporting data, where available, showing that such defendant did or omitted to do anything in contravention of this subpart, and

(4) The relief sought.

(D) Amended complaints. An amended complaint setting forth transactions, occurrences or events which have happened since the filing of the original complaint and which relate to the original cause of action may be filed with the Commission.

(E) Number of copies. An original and two copies of all pleadings shall be filed.

(F) Service. (1) Except where a complaint is referred to a state pursuant to § 64.604(c)(6)(i), or where a complaint is filed directly with a state entity, the Commission will serve on the named party a copy of any complaint or amended complaint filed with it, together with a notice of the filing of the complaint. Such notice shall call upon the defendant to satisfy or answer the Start Printed Page 38440complaint in writing within the time specified in said notice of complaint.

(2) All subsequent pleadings and briefs shall be served by the filing party on all other parties to the proceeding in accordance with the requirements of § 1.47 of this chapter. Proof of such service shall also be made in accordance with the requirements of said section.

(G) Answers to complaints and amended complaints. Any party upon whom a copy of a complaint or amended complaint is served under this subpart shall serve an answer within the time specified by the Commission in its notice of complaint. The answer shall advise the parties and the Commission fully and completely of the nature of the defense and shall respond specifically to all material allegations of the complaint. In cases involving allegations of harm, the answer shall indicate what action has been taken or is proposed to be taken to stop the occurrence of such harm. Collateral or immaterial issues shall be avoided in answers and every effort should be made to narrow the issues. Matters alleged as affirmative defenses shall be separately stated and numbered. Any defendant failing to file and serve an answer within the time and in the manner prescribed may be deemed in default.

(H) Replies to answers or amended answers. Within 10 days after service of an answer or an amended answer, a complainant may file and serve a reply which shall be responsive to matters contained in such answer or amended answer and shall not contain new matter. Failure to reply will not be deemed an admission of any allegation contained in such answer or amended answer.

(I) Defective pleadings. Any pleading filed in a complaint proceeding that is not in substantial conformity with the requirements of the applicable rules in this subpart may be dismissed.

(7) Treatment of TRS customer information. Beginning on July 21, 2000, all future contracts between the TRS administrator and the TRS vendor shall provide for the transfer of TRS customer profile data from the outgoing TRS vendor to the incoming TRS vendor. Such data must be disclosed in usable form at least 60 days prior to the provider's last day of service provision. Such data may not be used for any purpose other than to connect the TRS user with the called parties desired by that TRS user. Such information shall not be sold, distributed, shared or revealed in any other way by the relay center or its employees, unless compelled to do so by lawful order.

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6. Revise § 64.605 to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
State certification.

(a) State documentation. Any state, through its office of the governor or other delegated executive office empowered to provide TRS, desiring to establish a state program under this section shall submit, not later than October 1, 1992, documentation to the Commission addressed to the Federal Communications Commission, Chief, Common Carrier Bureau, TRS Certification Program, Washington, DC 20554, and captioned “TRS State Certification Application.” All documentation shall be submitted in narrative form, shall clearly describe the state program for implementing intrastate TRS, and the procedures and remedies for enforcing any requirements imposed by the state program. The Commission shall give public notice of states filing for certification including notification in the Federal Register.

(b) Requirements for certification. After review of state documentation, the Commission shall certify, by letter, or order, the state program if the Commission determines that the state certification documentation:

(1) Establishes that the state program meets or exceeds all operational, technical, and functional minimum standards contained in § 64.604;

(2) Establishes that the state program makes available adequate procedures and remedies for enforcing the requirements of the state program, including that it makes available to TRS users informational materials on state and Commission complaint procedures sufficient for users to know the proper procedures for filing complaints; and

(3) Where a state program exceeds the mandatory minimum standards contained in § 64.604, the state establishes that its program in no way conflicts with federal law.

(c) Certification period. State certification shall remain in effect for five years. One year prior to expiration of certification, a state may apply for renewal of its certification by filing documentation as prescribed by paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section.

(d) Method of funding. Except as provided in § 64.604, the Commission shall not refuse to certify a state program based solely on the method such state will implement for funding intrastate TRS, but funding mechanisms, if labeled, shall be labeled in a manner that promote national understanding of TRS and do not offend the public.

(e) Suspension or revocation of certification. The Commission may suspend or revoke such certification if, after notice and opportunity for hearing, the Commission determines that such certification is no longer warranted. In a state whose program has been suspended or revoked, the Commission shall take such steps as may be necessary, consistent with this subpart, to ensure continuity of TRS. The Commission may, on its own motion, require a certified state program to submit documentation demonstrating ongoing compliance with the Commission's minimum standards if, for example, the Commission receives evidence that a state program may not be in compliance with the minimum standards.

(f) Notification of substantive change. States must notify the Commission of substantive changes in their TRS programs within 60 days of when they occur, and must certify that the state TRS program continues to meet federal minimum standards after implementing the substantive change.

End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 00-15706 Filed 6-20-00; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6712-01-P