FCC Clarifies ‘iTRS’ Toll-Free Number Rule for Relay-Service Providers

Commission’s clarification is in response to a iTRS provider’s petition
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Commission’s clarification is in response to a iTRS provider’s petition

The U.S. government has amended its rules for Internet-based telecommunications relay service providers to improve assignment of telephone numbers—specifically toll-free numbers—enabling users to access an iTRS service.

On Dec. 26, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Federal Register notice—Telecommunications Relay Services and Speech-to-Speech Services for Individuals With Hearing and Speech Disabilities; E911 Requirements for IP-Enabled Service Providers—that says, the FCC “reconsiders and clarifies certain aspects of the iTRS Toll Free Order in response to a petition for reconsideration and clarification filed by Sorenson Communications Inc.”

In October 2011, Sorenson—a Salt Lake City-based provider of video relay services and products—filed a petition requesting the FCC reconsider and clarify the toll free-number requirements of the, at the time, proposed iTRS rule which became effective Nov. 16, 2012.

In the FCC’s response to Sorenson’s petition, the Commission says an iTRS provider must provide users with “geographically appropriate, ten-digit, North American Numbering Plan telephone numbers” rather than a toll-free number. “The Commission took this action because, in addition to the competitive concerns described above, the routine issuance of toll free numbers confused iTRS users, undermined the Commission's number conservation policy, increased costs to the TRS Fund and potentially hindered responses to 911 calls,” the document says.

In addition, toll-free numbers used by iTRS providers inhibit point-to-point calls by iTRS users to other iTRS users who can communicate using sign language over videophones, according to FCC.

Compliance with the FCC’s existing telecommunications relay service rules by iTRS providers concerning toll-free phone numbers can be achieved “by including on its website a clear description of how a user may acquire a toll free number or transfer control of a toll free number from a VRS (video relay service) or IP (internet protocol) relay provider to the user and the process by which a user may request that the toll free number be linked to his or her 10-digit telephone number in the TRS numbering directory.

“In its promotional materials, the provider may simply provide a link to this information on the provider’s website. This approach will ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing users who want to acquire or retain a toll free number can easily find the information they need to do so, while at the same time alleviating Sorenson’s concern about the burden on providers,” the FCC says.

Click here to access the Federal Register notice.