Sunday, August 9, 2009

No More Free Ride for VoIP Services!

It seems that Voice Over IP (VoIP) Services have gotten away with not having to contribute to the Telecommunications Relay Services Fund - the fund that supports our relay services. HR 3101 will change that! Section 103. Relay Services of HR 3101, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009, has language that would require VoIP services to contribute to the TRS fund like any other telephone service provider. This is important for the deaf and hard of hearing community because it will put regular telephone services and VoIP services on an equal footing with equal responsibility to contribute to that fund, taking away the advantage that VoIP services currently enjoy.

The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) has a position statement on expanding telecommunications relay services obligations to VoIP providers. A key statement in this position statement:
The recent decline in consumer reliance on traditional PSTN-based telephone services, coupled with a spiraling increase in the demand for innovative IP text and video based relay services, threaten to put funding support for relay services in jeopardy.
Caption Action 2 did not know this until now! We cancelled our landline service last year, as have many other people, both deaf and hearing. This lack of an existing requirement for VoIP and cable voice communications providers means that every time someone cancels their traditional telephone service (landline and wireless) and uses VoIP instead, the TRS fund loses another source of needed revenue!

The exact language about this in HR 3101 that would rectify the situation is as follows:

(a) DEFINITION.—Paragraph (3) of section 225(a) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 225(a)(3)) is amended to read as follows: ...

(b) INTERNET PROTOCOL-BASED RELAY SERVICES.—Title VII of such Act is amended by adding at the end the following new section:
Within one year after the date of enactment of the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009, each interconnected VoIP service provider and each provider of non-interconnected VoIP service shall participate in and contribute to the Telecommunications Relay Services Fund established in section 64.404(c)(5)(iii) of the Commission’s regulations (47 C.F.R. 64.404(c)(5)(iii)), as in effect on the date of enactment of such Act, in a manner prescribed by the Commission by regulation to provide for obligations of such providers that are consistent with and comparable to the obligations of other contributors to such Fund.’’.

(CA2 Editor Note: PSTN stands for Public Switched Telephone Network)


  1. PSTN = "Public Switched Telephone Network"

  2. Caption Action 2. thanks for posting this blog entry to keep us being informed of what is going on with the HR 3101.

    How true about the transformation of landline phone services being replaced by cell phone users and VOIP, etc?

    What about the wireless pager data service? Don't they being reasonably taxed or what?


  3. I work with a nonprofit that uses VOIP. My mother has VOIP also. Vonage is a VOIP phone provider.

    There's plenty of stories out there about people cancelling their landline and just using their cellphones. Personally, a landline is an old standby thus allowing you to use your phone if the cell and VOIP networks are down, including being able to use Voice CarryOver via videophone.

    Maybe someone else can help answer the question about wireless pager data services as RLM asks? Reading TMobile's Sidekick service bill, there's "Other Charges" and "Taxes & Surcharges."

  4. I use Vonage VOIP, and if my internet connection for some reason is down then I have no phone. This problem is a big issue but thank god we have cell phones. VOIP is great but it depends on internet which if not available then there are issues

  5. I'm in favor of taxing IP based services to contribute to the TRS fund. IP based services is the way of the future as evidenced by the drop rate of PSTN based services.

  6. With Google voice soon most of the voip service providers will face the heat and competition...

  7. yes your right! I think so no free services for VoIP..