Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  What can I do to help ensure the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sets appropriate relay service rules that fulfill the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandate?

A: Consumers must learn the issues. (VRSCA helps inform consumers.) Consumers can join VRSCA to contact the FCC and/or contact the FCC on their own. To learn more, visit www.vrsca.org

Q: What is the Notice of Inquiry (NOI)?

A: The NOI about relay services is a document issued recently by the FCC that focuses on accounting issues, outreach and marketing, research and development costs, compensation to VRS providers, functional equivalence of VRS equipment, and economic issues related to the structure of the VRS market. You can learn more about the NOI by visiting http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-10-111A1.pdf

Q:  The FCC is collecting feedback on the Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on relay services. What comes next?

A: The FCC will create a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), which is expected to be issued in coming months. The FCC will solicit and then consider consumers’ feedback on the NPRM to make new rules regarding VRS. Share your opinion with the FCC after the NPRM is published and before the final rulemaking.

Q:  What are the most critical current issues regarding relay today?

A: VRSCA maintains:

  • VRS rules must meet and satisfy the ADA mandate.
  • Consumers need choice—in providers, equipment, and services.
  • VRS equipment must have greater interoperability through improved standards for all calls, including point-to-point.
  • Outreach and education on current and new technologies is critical.
  • Quality, innovation, and improved services must be ensured through a competitive marketplace.

Q:  What is the difference between my current phone number and a local 10-digit number?

A:  The FCC has mandated that all VRS users have a "real number." A real number is either a toll-free (800) number or a local 10-digit number. If you have an 800 number from your provider, you can continue to use this number, and you will also receive a local 10-digit number. An 800 number is great because it allows those who call you from out of state or long distance to call you with no long distance charges. If you only have a "proxy" number, you will need to get a local 10-digit number from the default provider you select. You may also be able to get a toll-free number from that provider.

Q:  Can I keep my "proxy" number?

A:  Proxy numbers were originally scheduled to stop working December 31, 2008, but will now stop working on June 30, 2009. The FCC has given this additional time to allow VRS users time to notify their contacts of their new numbers.

Q:  How can I get a real number?

A:  You can get a real number when you select your default VRS provider. The FCC issued an order in December 2008 requiring all VRS users to select a default VRS provider by June 30, 2009. The VRS provider you select will be responsible for giving you a Real Number and providing you with Enhanced 911 (E911) service.

Q:  I have several providers on my VP contact list. Can I still use them?

A:  Yes, you can choose to use another provider for outgoing calls.

Q:   Can I use the same local 10-digit number with all providers?

A:  Any provider can route a relay call to your 10-digit number. If the hearing person simply dials the 10-digit number, whoever you have selected as your default provider handles the relay portion of the call.

Q:   Whom should I contact regarding an 800 number, local 10-digit number, or changing my number?

A:   If you do not yet have an 800 number or a local 10-digit number, contact the provider that you want to be your default VRS provider. If you already have a 10-digit number and want an 800 number as well, or want to change your number, contact your default provider.

Q:  What happens to my address information if I move?

A:  VRS users are responsible for keeping their addresses current with their selected default provider. Your information does not automatically update; you must contact your default provider with your new address information.

Q:  How do I update my home address so that I can receive E911 services?

A:   You should contact your default provider.

Q:  Who do I contact if I have a problem with a video relay interpreter?

A:  Go to that provider’s website for information.

Q:  Should I keep my TTY number?

A:  RS calls are routed over the Internet, so you need to be aware that using any videophone equipment to place an emergency call to 911 has certain risks. If there is a power outage or if your broadband or ISP service goes down, you will not be able to use your videophone. It may be a good idea to keep a TTY available.

Q:  Can I transfer my current local phone number from a landline phone or TTY to a videophone?

A: Yes.  But if you transfer your TTY number or other landline number to your videophone, your TTY or landline will no longer work. If you wish to keep that service, you can request a new number for your TTY or landline from the phone company. You can transfer your existing TTY or landline number to your videophone through your default provider.  If you no longer want your landline or TTY service, you will need to cancel it through the phone company.

Q:  With my new local 10-digit number, will a person calling me from the same local calling area be required to dial 7 digits, or 10 digits?

A:  This depends on the area in which you live. Some areas require people to dial all ten digits for local calls while others do not.

Q:  Will my hearing callers be charged long distance fees when calling me on my local 10-digit number?

A:  That depends on the long distance service they have, but it is possible. Many VRS users have callers use their 800 numbers to avoid long distance charges.

Q:  What is E911?

A:  Enhanced 911 (E911) allows a faster response time when calling 911 because your home address is on file with your default VRS provider. The FCC is requiring all relay providers use a caller’s registered location information to quickly route 911 calls to the appropriate emergency services contact point. With current 911 services, the VRS provider does not have customer address information on file and customers must sign their address to the interpreter when there is an emergency. With E911, the default VRS provider has the customer address information on file and simply asks the caller to verify that information during the emergency call.

Q: How quickly will the VRS interpreter transfer my call in case of an emergency?

A:  When a user dials 911 on their videophone, the call is prioritized and answered by the first available interpreter.  E911 calls will be streamlined for those who have registered their locations with a default VRS provider, and kept their registered locations updated.

Q:  What happens in the event of a power failure and my videophone goes out?

A:  Because VRS calls are routed over the Internet, you should be aware that using a videophone to place an emergency call to 911 has certain risks. For example, you may not be able to place a 911 call with a videophone if a broadband or power outage occurs, or your broadband or ISP service has been terminated.  It’s a good idea to keep a TTY available in the event of a power failure or some other problem.

Q:  What companies offer VRS?

A:  Current TRS providers (listed alphabetically) are as follows:

Q:  How can I contact the FCC?

A:  See the VRSCA Take Action web page.

Q:  Is VRS free and how is VRS funded?

A:   Various VRS companies provide video relay services free of charge. Each of these VRS providers is reimbursed from the federal Telecommunications Relay Services Fund and must comply with various Federal Communications Commission (FCC) service quality requirements. For example, providers that choose to offer VRS must meet speed-of-answer requirements and must offer service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Q:  Is VRS the most functionally-equivalent relay service?

A:   Yes, VRS is the most functionally equivalent form of telecommunication services for the Deaf community.

VRSCA supports all efforts to make sure VRS is available to everyone.

Q:  Who is behind the VRSCA organization?

A:   VRSCA is led by regional managers and supported by Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing individuals who share a common mission – making VRS more accessible. Any VRS user or provider is invited to sign up for email updates.

Q:  Can any VRS user participate and support the VRSCA organization?

A:   Yes, all VRS users and VRS providers can participate in the organization and are encouraged to be involved to help make VRS more accessible to the thousands of Deaf individuals across the United States.

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