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Oh, What to Do About Video Relay Services?

By December 17, 2009

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Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. Before today's Federal Communications Commission Video Relay Service Reform Workshop (archived webcast, captions do not start until 04:25), I thought that competitive bidding was the way to go. Now, I'm not so sure.

At the Workshop an argument made against competitive bidding was that it would reduce innovation and quality of service. That makes sense, because to win a competitive bid, often you have to offer lower prices. And to offer lower cost, often means you can't spend that much on innovation. Likewise, you can't invest as much in the level of service you offer, because you have to hold down costs.

On the other hand - and this is me speaking now - the current system of paying per minute/hour has a built-in incentive for fraud. If a company's revenue is going to depend on the number of minutes/hours generated, obviously it is going to be in that company's best interest to have as many minutes or hours as possible. Reducing the rate paid is not the answer either, because you still have the problem of revenue being dependent on how many total minutes or hours you generate!

So what to do?? What should the FCC do? The Federal government has an obligation to protect the public from wastefulness, and at the same time you don't want to stifle competition and innovation. Does the answer lie in some kind of combination of the two? Competitive bidding but the winners would get payment in the form of a combination of a flat fee plus some kind of per minute or hourly rate? A guaranteed income plus the opportunity to earn more beyond the guarantee?

December 18, 2009 at 12:18 am
(1) Jared Evans says:

Competitive bidding is the worse move to make at this time. That will guarantee the death of future video phone innovations.

Video phones for the deaf still have a way to go before providers are ready for competitive bidding. Competitive bidding makes sense only when there are a number of viable competitors who can provide well designed, fully functional video phones with corresponding great relay service. We are nowhere near this point.

Moreover, the videophones devices themselves are only “half of the story.” There needs to be a solid back-end infrastructure to support the videophones and is usually where most of the money/effort takes place unseen by the consumers. The back-end infrastructure provides the great features such as 10 digits phone numbers, server routing, or video mail. This is very difficult and time consuming to develop/implement and costs a pretty penny.

Imagine being stuck with a TV device like VP200 for the rest of our lives? Mobile videophones are becoming the reality for more deaf people. It’s only a matter of time before videophones the size of cellphones are able to do VRS calls. The pace of innovation should not be hindered, because to be frank, no regular company would consider doing taking the time/money to develop this without the additional incentives.

At this point, I’m in favor of making systematic changes by allowing FCC to have stronger oversight and have the authority to enforce more stern policy on providers so all billed minutes are kosher and prevent potential abuses.

December 21, 2009 at 6:25 pm
(2) Tousi says:

And speaking about “incentive for fraud”, what I think needs to be done is that the deaf (qualified ones, of course) need to be the ones running the show, not hearing folks.

December 21, 2009 at 8:53 pm
(3) deafness says:

Except for one problem. Deaf people were among those who got arrested for the fraud.

December 22, 2009 at 10:59 pm
(4) Neal Golden says:

I will be very straight forward if they cut rate it only give Sorenson the edge to the VRS business. I personally like ZVRS better than Sorenson because they always trying to make the product better. The pix and sound quality is a lot better than Sorenson. I use the VCO the most and the quality sound w 150 is unbelievable and I don’t have to wait to connect. I truly believe competition is healthy since Sorenson don’t listen to deaf people opinion about things.

They need to make Yeh s brother and DHIS an example to society. They are guilty and they know it. Why waste our tax dollars to listen to there hearing? We need to make them an example to our deaf peers that stealing is wrong. They commit a Federal crime and they should throw there ass in jail. I don’t want to hear any sympathy becaue they are deaf. This is like another Madoff’s case but the worst part is that innocent people are suffering because of greed.

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