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Videophone Program for Deaf Raises Concerns

February 28 2009 | by

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Deaf people can connect over the phone to the hearing world by calling the government-subsidized sign interpreters on a videophone. The sign interpreters then place a call and repeat, or relay, the deaf person’s conversation to a hearing person.

Free videophone service, which is available across the U.S. 24 hours a day, is a benefit to deaf individuals, but the Federal Communications Commission has raised serious concerns about its price tag. A congressional committee agreed in a December 2008 report that concluded consumers were overpaying. Relay services for the deaf are paid through a surcharge on everyone’s long-distance phone bills.

The FCC says the market for video, Internet and other relay services for the deaf could soon top $1 billion a year, up from less than $50 million in the late 1990s. It has authorized about a dozen companies for video relay, which is free to a deaf person who has broadband or DSL and a videophone.

A phone number is obtained from an authorized video-relay company, such as Sorenson, GoAmerica Inc., Snap Telecommunications Inc., or CSDVRS LLC.

Read more at the Philadelphia Enquirer

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