Telecommunications Relay Service Modernization

 
CONTENT
Federal Register, Volume 85 Issue 6 (Thursday, January 9, 2020)
[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 6 (Thursday, January 9, 2020)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 1134-1136]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-28444]
[[Page 1134]]
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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
47 CFR Part 64
[CG Docket No. 03-123; FCC 19-90; FRS 16385]
Telecommunications Relay Service Modernization
AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.
ACTION: Proposed rule.
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SUMMARY: In this document, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC
or Commission) proposes to: Eliminate the outdated equal access and
multiple billing options requirements from the TRS mandatory minimum
standards and to streamline Commission processes by ceasing Federal
Register publication of state requests for TRS program certification,
while continuing to publish these certification applications in the
Commission's electronic document management system and on the
Commission's website.
DATES: Comments are due January 30, 2020. Reply comments are due
February 13, 2020.
ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by CG Docket No. 03-123,
by either of the following methods:
     Federal Communications Commission's Website: https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings. Follow the instructions for submitting
comments.
     Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must
file an original and one copy of each filing. If more than one docket
or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding, filers
must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or
rulemaking number. Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery,
by commercial overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S.
Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission's
Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
    For detailed instructions for submitting comments and additional
information on the rulemaking process, see document FCC 19-90 at:
https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-19-90A1.pdf.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Scott, Consumer and
Governmental Affairs Bureau, at (202) 418-1264, or email
[email protected].
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Commission's Notice
of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), document FCC 19-90, adopted on September
18, 2019, released on September 20, 2019, in CG Docket No. 03-123. The
Report and Order in document FCC 19-90 will be published elsewhere in
the Federal Register. The full text of document FCC 19-90 is available
for public inspection and copying via the Commission's Electronic
Comment Filing System (ECFS), and during regular business hours at the
FCC Reference Information Center, Portals II, 445 12th Street SW, Room
CY-A257, Washington, DC 20554. To request materials in accessible
formats for people with disabilities (braille, large print, electronic
files, audio format), send an email to [email protected] or call the
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice) or
(202) 418-0432 (TTY).
    This proceeding shall be treated as a ``permit-but-disclose''
proceeding in accordance with the Commission's ex parte rules. 47 CFR
1.1200 et seq. Persons making ex parte presentations must file a copy
of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any oral
presentation within two business days after the presentation (unless a
different deadline applicable to the Sunshine period applies). Persons
making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda
summarizing the presentation must (1) list all persons attending or
otherwise participating in the meeting at which the ex parte
presentation was made, and (2) summarize all data presented and
arguments made during the presentation. If the presentation consisted
in whole or in part of the presentation of data or arguments already
reflected in the presenter's written comments, memoranda, or other
filings in the proceeding, the presenter may provide citations to such
data or arguments in his or her prior comments, memoranda, or other
filings (specifying the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where
such data or arguments can be found) in lieu of summarizing them in the
memorandum. Documents shown or given to Commission staff during ex
parte meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must
be filed consistent with rule 1.1206(b). In proceedings governed by
rule 1.49(f) or for which the Commission has made available a method of
electronic filing, written ex parte presentations and memoranda
summarizing oral ex parte presentations, and all attachments thereto,
must be filed through the electronic comment filing system available
for that proceeding, and must be filed in their native format (e.g.,
.doc, .xml, .ppt, searchable .pdf). Participants in this proceeding
should familiarize themselves with the Commission's ex parte rules.
Initial Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 Analysis
    The NPRM in document FCC 19-90 seeks comment on proposed rule
amendments that may result in modified information collection
requirements. If the Commission adopts any modified information
collection requirements, the Commission will publish another notice in
the Federal Register inviting the public to comment on the
requirements, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act. Public Law
104-13; 44 U.S.C. 3501-3520.
    In addition, pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of
2002, the Commission seeks comment on how it might further reduce the
information collection burden for small business concerns with fewer
than 25 employees. Public Law 107-198; 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4).
Synopsis
    1. As required by section 225 of the Communications Act, as Amended
(the Act), 47 U.S.C. 225, the Commission's rules prescribe mandatory
minimum standards to ensure that TRS provides telephone service for
people with hearing or speech disabilities that is functionally
equivalent to voice communication service.
    2. Equal Access Requirement. The Commission proposes to repeal the
equal access requirement, which provides that ``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.'' The rule, which was adopted in 1991,
reflects the prevailing telephone service practices at that time, when
providers of telephone service generally assessed per-minute rates for
long distance based on the distance and duration of the call, and long
distance services were provided on an unbundled basis by competing
interexchange carriers.
    3. Today, voice telephone subscribers typically pay a bundled or
flat rate for telephone service, without time or distance differentials
for long distance calls, and the Commission has ceased to apply an
equal access requirement to voice telephone service. Because the rule
only requires equal access ``to the same extent that such access is
provided to voice users'' and because the Commission has eliminated the
equal access rule for non-legacy voice users, there are few, and ever-
decreasing,
[[Page 1135]]
situations in which a TRS provider would actually be obligated to
provide equal access under the current rule.
    4. In this changed environment, the Commission believes special
mandates regarding long distance carriage are no longer necessary in
order to have parity with voice telephone users when making long
distance calls. Additionally, the Commission finds credible that
implementing this requirement can be confusing for consumers and cause
delays in call set-up, and that it hinders the providers' ability to
transition their platforms to more efficient IP-based networks--in
accordance with the Act's mandate for the TRS program to take advantage
of evolving technologies. Given changes in how consumers now acquire
and pay for long distance services, the costs and burdens associated
with this rule now appear to outweigh any remaining benefits. The
Commission seeks comment on this proposal.
    5. The Commission also proposes to clarify that, when TRS providers
allow consumers to make long distance calls without incurring per-
minute charges, such offerings do not constitute an impermissible
financial incentive for TRS use. Although the Commission previously
found that long distance discounts offered by TRS providers could
constitute an impermissible financial incentive, that ruling was based
on the premise that such discounts would cause the charges for long
distance calls by TRS users to be lower than those for voice service
users. In today's marketplace, the Commission believes the widespread
bundling of long distance and local calling eliminates any risk that
offering free long distance to TRS users would create an impermissible
incentive to make long distance calls. The Commission seeks comment on
this proposed clarification.
    6. Billing Options Requirement. The Commission proposes to repeal
the billing options requirement, which directs TRS providers to offer
``the same billing options (e.g., sent-paid long distance, operator-
assisted, collect, and third party billing) traditionally offered for
wireline voice services.'' As is the case with the equal access
requirement, this TRS feature, which was also adopted in 1991, has
become a burden with no associated public interest benefit. Given the
widespread bundling of local and long distance calling and the
disappearance of per-minute long distance charges, the Commission
believes the future likelihood of any TRS provider assessing per-minute
charges for wireline calls (and thereby triggering a possible need for
billing options) is de minimis. Accordingly, alternative billing
options no longer appear necessary for TRS users to achieve
functionally equivalent service. Eliminating this obligation should
make the provision of TRS more efficient because it will relieve TRS
providers from the need to maintain obsolete features of circuit-
switched networks at a time when they and others within the
communications industry have been transitioning to IP-based platforms.
The Commission seeks comment on this proposal.
    7. Federal Register Notice of State Requests for Certification. The
Commission proposes to cease Federal Register publication of the
Commission's public notices of applications for certification of state
TRS programs. The purpose of the Commission's certification process is
to review the details of a state's TRS program to determine whether the
state program makes intrastate TRS available in a manner that meets or
exceeds the Commission's minimum standards, makes available adequate
procedures and remedies for enforcing program requirements, and does
not conflict with Federal law. In this certification process, the
Commission does not make rules prescribing how state programs should
operate; rather, it determines whether a state program meets the
standards of the Commission's existing TRS rules. The Commission's
review is ordinarily conducted based on the documentation submitted by
a state, and no adjudicatory hearing is ordinarily needed to determine
whether a state program merits certification.
    8. Federal Register publication of state TRS program certification
applications is not required by the Administrative Procedure Act.
Moreover, for comparable Commission authorization processes, such as
determinations on internet-based TRS certification applications and
common-carrier applications for certificates of ``public convenience
and necessity,'' Federal Register publication is not required by the
Commission's rules. Nor is publication necessary for consistency with
Commission practice in other areas.
    9. In addition, while the Commission continues to believe that
public input is important in assisting the Commission in its state
certification determinations, providing electronic notice of such
certification requests via public notice releases that are posted in
the Commission's electronic documents system (EDOCS) and on the
Commission's website should provide sufficient notice to enable
interested members of the public to comment on an application, while at
the same time preserving Commission resources associated with Federal
Register publication. The Commission seeks comment on this proposal. In
particular, the Commission seeks comment on whether use of the
Commission's own public notice process would be sufficient to enable an
informed Commission decision on state program authorization given the
Commission's longstanding reliance on this public notice process for
comparable types of applications.
Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
    10. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, as
amended, the Commission has prepared this Initial Regulatory
Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) of the possible significant economic impact
on a substantial number of small entities by the policies and rules
proposed in document FCC 19-90. Written public comments are requested
on this IRFA. Comments must be identified as responses to the IRFA and
must be filed by the deadline for comments specified in the DATES
section. The Commission will send a copy of document FCC 19-90 to the
Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration.
Need for, and Objectives of, the Proposed Rules
    11. In document FCC 19-90, the Commission proposes to repeal the
equal access requirement so that it is no longer applicable to any form
of TRS. The Commission believes it is no longer necessary to provide
TRS users with the ability to select their long distance carrier to get
certain rates on their toll calls to achieve functional equivalency.
The Commission also proposes to repeal the billing options requirement
so that it is no longer applicable to any form of TRS. Given the
increasing migration to telephone service bundles for local and long
distance calls, the ability for TRS users to employ various billing
options for toll calls no longer appears necessary to achieve
functionally equivalent service. Eliminating this obligation will make
the provision of TRS more efficient because it will relieve TRS
providers of the need to maintain obsolete network features at a time
when they and others within the communications industry are
transitioning to IP-based platforms. In addition, the Commission
proposes to eliminate the requirement for the Commission to publish in
the Federal Register notice of applications for certification of state
TRS programs and instead rely on the Commission's public notice release
process.
[[Page 1136]]
Legal Basis
    12. The authority for this proposed rulemaking is contained in
sections 1, 2 and 225 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47
U.S.C. 151, 152, 225.
Small Entities Impacted
    13. The rule changes proposed in document FCC 19-90 will affect
obligations of non-internet based TRS providers. These services can be
included within the broad economic category of All Other
Telecommunications.
Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance
Requirements
    14. The Commission's proposals to delete the equal access and
billing options requirements and to eliminate the requirement for the
Commission to publish in the Federal Register notice of applications
for certification of state TRS programs would not impose any additional
reporting, record keeping, or other compliance requirements.
Steps Taken To Minimize Significant Impact on Small Entities, and
Significant Alternatives Considered
    15. The proposals to eliminate the equal access and billing options
requirements will reduce the burden on small entities subject to the
rule. Such entities would no longer need to provide TRS users with the
ability to select their long distance carrier or offer billing options,
and the providers would no longer be required to configure their
networks for such functionalities. Other small entities would not be
affected.
    16. The proposal to eliminate the requirement for the Commission to
publish in the Federal Register notice of applications for
certification of state TRS programs would have no impact on small
entities because only the Commission is burdened by this obligation.
    17. The Commission seeks comment from all interested parties. Small
entities are encouraged to bring to the Commission's attention any
specific concerns they may have with the proposals outlined in document
FCC 19-90. The Commission expects to consider the economic impact on
small entities, as identified in comments filed in response to document
FCC 19-90, in reaching its final conclusions and taking action in this
proceeding.
Federal Rules Which Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With, the
Commission's Proposals
    18. None.
List of Subjects in 47 CFR Part 64
    Individuals with disabilities, Telecommunications,
Telecommunications relay services.
Federal Communications Commission.
Marlene Dortch,
Secretary.
Proposed Rules
    For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal
Communications Commission proposes to amend 47 part 64 as follows:
PART 64--MISCELLANEOUS RULES RELATING TO COMMON CARRIERS
0
1. The authority citation for part 64 continues to read as follows:
    Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154, 201, 202, 217, 218, 220, 222, 225,
226, 227, 228, 251(a), 251(e), 254(k), 262, 403(b)(2)(B), (c), 616,
620, and 1401-1473, unless otherwise noted.
0
2. Amend Sec.  64.604 by revising paragraph (a)(3)(ii) and by removing
and reserving paragraph (b)(3) to read as follows:
Sec.  64.604  Mandatory Minimum Standards.
    (a) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (ii) Relay services shall be capable of handling any type of call
normally provided by telecommunications carriers unless the Commission
determines that it is not technologically feasible to do so. Relay
service providers have the burden of proving the infeasibility of
handling any type of call.
* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (3) [Remove and Reserve]
* * * * *
0
3. Amend Sec.  64.606 by revising paragraph (a)(1) to read as follows:
Sec.  64.606  Internet-based TRS provider and TRS program
certification.
    (a) Documentation--(1) Certified state program. 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, Consumer and Governmental Affairs 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.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2019-28444 Filed 1-8-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P