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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 04-1260



Pennsylvania Telephone Relay Service--Captioned Telephone Service

[34 Pa.B. 3654]

Public Meeting held
June 24, 2004

Commissioners Present:  Terrance J. Fitzpatrick, Chairperson; Robert K. Bloom, Vice Chairperson; Glen R. Thomas; Kim Pizzingrilli; Wendell F. Holland

Pennsylvania Telephone Relay Service--Captioned Telephone Service; Doc. No. M-00900239F0008

Opinion and Order

By the Commission:

   Before the Commission is consideration of the future of captioned telephone service in this Commonwealth. Captioned telephone service is a form of telephone relay service that uses a voice recognition mechanism and a captioning telephone to display to the called party the user's conversation almost simultaneously with the user's spoken words. Having conducted a trial of captioned telephone service, there are many legal, technical and financial issues that must be carefully examined with respect to the long-term provisioning of captioned telephone service.

   Ultratec®, in partnership with AT&T as the Commonwealth's certificated Telephone Relay Service (TRS)1 provider, has been providing its form of captioned telephone service known as CapTelTM on a trial basis to almost 200 consumers since May 2003. Initially the Commission approved a 9-month trial of CapTelTM, which was subsequently extended for 3 months in January 2004 and for another 3 months in April 2004. The CapTelTM trial is currently scheduled to conclude on July 31, 2004. This Commission is evaluating whether to extend the trial and will issue its decision via Secretarial Letter by the end of July 2004 at doc. no. M-00900239.

   Irrespective of this decision regarding the continuation of the current CapTelTM, we will seek comments on the feasibility of providing captioned telephone service in this Commonwealth on a going-forward basis. In addition to the issue of funding, we seek information regarding the status of captioned telephone service technology in the industry and the options through which a service may be provided.

   Interested persons may file comments on the following questions and may include other pertinent comments, as appropriate.

1)  Should captioned telephone service be provided via separate certificate of convenience or by contract with the current certificate holder?
2)  Do potential captioned telephone service providers require and possess waivers from the Federal Communications Commission for the long-term offering of captioned telephone service?
3)  On the issue of funding captioned telephone service for the long-term, are there any other potential funding mechanisms available?
4)  How would funding of interstate calls be handled if the captioned telephone service is continued for the long-term?
5)  What is the expected impact of the cost of captioned telephone service on the PA Telephone Relay Service (TRS) surcharge?
6)  Regarding the issue of the equipment needed to provide captioned telephone service, what are the costs associated with the equipment which is currently being provided free of charge by Ultratec®?
7)  What is the anticipated take-rate for the equipment if captioned telephone service were to be offered for the long-term?
8)  Should the captioned telephone equipment qualify for distribution under the TDDP? Of the anticipated take-rate, how many consumers would qualify to receive the equipment under the TDDP program?
9)  What are the expected cost of handsets and the impact of the provision of handsets on the budget and expenses of the Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf program (TDDP).2
10)  What, if needed, special and/or additional outreach and education is necessary for captioned telephone service?
11)  Other states, such as Washington3
and Maryland, have provided trialed captioned telephone service. The Commission should be made aware of any information about the experiences of these (and any other states), including whether or not the states have extended their trials or have decided to provide long-term captioned telephone service.

12)  Evaluations were solicited from participants in the CapTel(tm) trial program, and 20% of these respondents reported difficulties with the service such as garbled text and disconnects. How have the difficulties expressed by the current users been addressed, and how will they be remedied if captioned telephone service is continued?
13)  Is there any other information the Commission needs to address in this matter?

   The Commission wishes to ensure that its consideration of the possible long-term provisioning of captioned telephone service proceeds in a timely manner. Therefore, this Order soliciting comments will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, posted on the Commission's website and will allow 20 days for comments and 10 days for reply comments. Staff will review the submitted comments and replies and provide the Commission with a recommendation in October 2004 so that the Commission can target a final resolution of this matter for November 2004. This timeframe gives interested parties an opportunity to be heard and the Commission time to decide the best course of action regarding the long-term viability of captioned telephone service in this Commonwealth. As a matter of great importance to the Commonwealth, we look forward to continuing to learn about captioned telephone technology and its ramifications for all Pennsylvanians so that we can find a way to fulfill our goal of best serving the public interest; Therefore,

It Is Ordered That:

   1.  The Bureau of Fixed Utility Services, in conjunction with Law Bureau and Counsel to the TRS Advisory Board, shall begin fact-finding into whether and how captioned telephone service should be provided in this Commonwealth on a long-term basis, culminating in a recommendation for the Commission's consideration in October 2004.

   2.  This Order shall be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and posted on the Commission's website.

   3.  Interested persons shall file comments with the Secretary's Bureau on or before 20 days after the publication of this Order. Reply comments may be filed within 10 days thereafter. Copies of the comments, including an electronic version on disk in Word-compatible format, should be provided to the Bureau of Fixed Utility Services at the time of filing.

   4.  Copies of this Order shall be served on all jurisdictional local service providers, the Office of Consumer Advocate, the Office of Small Business Advocate, the Pennsylvania Telephone Association, the Pennsylvania TRS Advisory Board and Ultratec®.


[Pa.B. Doc. No. 04-1260. Filed for public inspection July 9, 2004, 9:00 a.m.]


1  The Pennsylvania TRS is a telephone relay service provided by AT&T and regulated by this Commission offering persons who are hearing, deaf, hard of hearing or speech-disabled ways to connect using the telephone: Traditional Relay, Video Relay, and Internet Relay. Each conversation is relayed by a trained Communications Assistant who follows a strict code of ethics and confidentiality. The TRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information, see

2  The TDDP provides specialized telecommunications devices, such as text telephones and amplifiers, at no charge to qualifying persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, who have speech and language disorders or who have a physical disability that prevents them from using standard telecommunication equipment. To qualify, the person must have gross incomes of less than 200436000f the Federal poverty level and must be a resident of this Commonwealth, at least 6 years of age and must have telephone service and the ability to learn how to use the telecommunications device. The Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, administers the program. For more information, see %20TDDP.

3  For more information regarding Washington's experience see

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