Telecommunications – Going Backwards?

Even though I am not a fan of phone relay services and prefer emailing or texting or instant messaging to communicate to people directly, I appreciate the ability to make phone calls via any type of those services that I wrote about in my last post. However, I got an email message from Sorenson that made me and many others get upset because that organization decided to discontinue their text relay services (SIP Relay) while keeping Video Relay Services (VRS).

Here’s a screenshot of the message:

Screenshot of email message from Sorenson about discontinuing IP Relay Services

Email from Sorenson informing IP Relay customers about discontinuing the services.

The reason for discontinuing IP Relay services is the following: “The new FCC compensation rates for IP Relay are too low to provide the quality IP Relay service our customers deserve. This is an unfortunate example of an FCC decision that was not based on the realities of the market and the needs of our SIPRelay users.”

Sorenson is the third TRS provider to discontinue providing IP Relay services after Hamilton and AT&T. As of this writing, Sprint and Purple Communications are the remaining TRS providers that continue providing text-based relay services.

Although there are many alternatives that deaf and hard of hearing people can use to contact businesses and hearing people via email, texting, and instant messaging, there are times when using relay services is useful – especially to communicate with certain people who cannot type or type fast enough or to follow up with email communication.

I find it sad that more TRS providers decide to keep VRS and discontinue IP Relay services when there are many millions of deaf and hard of hearing people who know little or no sign language to benefit from VRS. Although I am a fluent ASL user, I prefer to my messages to be relayed via typing than signing not to let my signs get lost in translation. As for Caption Call that is mentioned in the email, it’s beneficial only to those who can use voice that is understood by strangers – people like myself cannot benefit from those services and prefer to type.

This is one more reason to ask more businesses to stop forcing their website users to fill in phone number fields on online forms as I had explained in a couple of my other articles:

Even not all hearing people like using phone, and it is not the only way to communicate in the 21st century. I hope that FCC’s changes and decisions of Sorenson and other TRS providers would not prevent so many millions of deaf and hard of hearing from having more options to communicate with the world.