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July 3, 2007

FCC Freezes TRS Compensation Rate for Now While Mulling Alternatives

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Telecommunications relay service compensation rates paid to providers will remain at their current levels while the FCC continues to mull new payment methodologies as part of a 2006 TRS further notice of proposed rulemaking, the Commission ruled late Friday.

As part of its order, the FCC declined to approve alternate cost recovery methodologies proposed by the National Exchange Carrier Association, Inc.,  for the various forms of TRS for the new fiscal year, deciding instead to wait and change the rates when it adopts a new payment system as part of the FNPRM.

The TRS fund will remain at $553.4 million, as will compensation rates for interstate traditional TRS ($1.291 per minute); interstate speech-to-speech ($1.409); interstate captioned telephone service ($1.291); interstate and intrastate Internet protocol relay and intrastate IP captioned telephone service ($1.293); and interstate and intrastate video relay service ($6.644).

The move was hailed by video relay service (VRS) providers, who have largely banded together to push the Commission into adopting a multi-year rate methodology. Such a model, which is being considered by the agency, would give providers incentives to make VRS available to more Deaf people and to improve the service, they said.

"It appears that the FCC understands the need for stability and predictability in the VRS rate," said Pat Nola, president and chief executive officer of Sorenson Communications, Inc. "A fair rate preserves our efforts to deliver VRS to the entire Deaf community as well as continues to make the much needed, long-term investments and to improve technology." - Ted Gotsch, ted.gotsch@wolterskluwer.com

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