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section of the legislation which would permit a one year extension for those carriers alleging undue burden. Failure to delete this waiver provision may result in denying telephone

access to individuals with hearing and speech impairments for as

much as four years after the ADA is enacted.

This may spell four

more years of isolation and dependence on others for these

populations.

CONCLUSION

This is not the first occasion on which this Subcommittee

has considered the issue of telecommunications access for

disabled people.

In 1982, this Subcommittee facilitated the

passage of the Telecommunications for the Disabled Act of 1982.

In report language to that Act, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce explained that "[ojne of the most frustrating aspects of hearing impairment and deafness is the inability to use

telecommunications media on which modern life has grown so

dependent." H. Rep. No. 97-888, 97th Cong., 2d sess., 4 (1982).

At that time, the Committee declared a national policy, that "all

persons, including the disabled, should have available the best telecommunications service that is technologically and economically feasible." H. Rep. No. 97-888 at 7-8. The establishment of nationwide relay services will finally take a giant step toward achieving this goal. The access to full telephone service that the ADA guarantees will create new · opportunities so that all persons including those with hearing and speech impairments will have a fair chance to participate and succeed in the mainstream of society.

We wish to thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony in support of the relay section of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We encourage this Subcommittee to do whatever is necessary to ensure that our dream for equal telephone access comes true.

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TIME FOR COMPLIANCE

As originally passed by the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, the ADA would have required telephone companies to begin relay operations within two years after enactment of the ADA. As passed by the Senate Committee, the ADA would also allow

the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to grant an extension

of up to one additional year to any telephone company that could

prove it would suffer an undue burden if required to meet the two

year deadline.

By floor amendment, the Senate extended the time for carrier

compliance from two to three years. Given the fact that the Senate has provided all carriers with an additional year by which to begin operations, we see no purpose in also leaving in the ADA the one year waiver provision. The technology needed to begin relay operations already exists. In comments to an earlier proceeding before the FCC, AT&T made clear that the carrier industry already has the technical equipment, standards, and knowhow necessary to begin a nationwide relay system. Moreover, our experiences with the various state programs illustrate that a relay system can be set up - from start to finish - within a period of one to two years. The Fcc is required to issue regulations setting forth minimum standards and guidelines for relay services within one year; this leaves more than enough time for all carriers to start up relay operations under the new Senate floor amendment.

For the above reasons, we urge the committee to delete that

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section of the legislation which would permit a one year extension for those carriers alleging undue burden. Failure to delete this waiver provision may result in denying telephone

access to individuals with hearing and speech impairments for as

much as four years after the ADA is enacted. This may spell four more years of isolation and dependence on others for these populations.

CONCLUSION

This is not the first occasion on which this Subcommittee

has considered the issue of telecommunications access for

disabled people.

In 1982, this Subcommittee facilitated the

passage of the Telecommunications for the Disabled Act of 1982.

In report language to that Act, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce explained that "cojne of the most frustrating aspects of hearing impairment and deafness is the inability to us

telecommunications media on which modern life has grown so

dependent." H. Rep. No. 97-888, 97th Cong., 2d sess., 4 (1982). At that time, the Committee declared a national policy, that "all persons, including the disabled, should have available the best telecommunications service that is technologically and economically feasible." H. Rep. No. 97-888 at 7-8. The

establishment of nationwide relay services will finally take a

giant step toward achieving this goal. The access to full telephone service that the ADA guarantees will create new · opportunities so that all persons including those with hearing and speech impairments will have a fair chance to participate

and succeed in the mainstream of society.

We wish to thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony in support of the relay section of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We encourage this Subcommittee to do whatever is necessary to ensure that our dream for equal telephone access comes true.

Mr. MARKEY. Thank you very much. And our final witness will be Linda Hershman, who is the general manager of Government Relations for the United States Telephone Association.

STATEMENT OF LINDA D. HERSHMAN Ms. HERSHMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am here today to testify on behalf of the United States Telephone Association, and its 1,100 member companies and SNET. I would like to mention that with me is Margaret Gerard, an attorney at our company,

who has been directly involved in this issue in Connecticut.

We are pleased to have the opportunity to testify in support of congressional action, establishing the availability of message relay service to all Americans as national policy.

Implementation of this policy will not be simple, but we do believe that it is both feasible and necessary. We have had considerable experience in Connecticut in addressing the issues surrounding the provision of message relay service. Statewide message relay service for both interstate and intrastate calls has been available in Connecticut since 1974.

The service is provided by a nonprofit corporation, Converse Communications Center, and there are approximately 1,500 TDD users in Connecticut, and the monthly volume currently averages 10,000 calls. This is expected to grow to 14,000 calls per month. Until July of this year, funding for the service was obtained from a mix of private contributions and State grants. Growth in demand and constraints in funding resulted in a minimum number of hours of operation, and difficulty for users in obtaining an available operator.

In response to this situation, Governor O'Neil of Connecticut directed the Connecticut Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired to work with SNET, the Connecticut utility regulatory agency, and Connecticut's consumer council, to come up with a plan to provide full-message relay service. We were all committed to the task, but it wasn't easy.

Because we had a system in place, funding was the critical issue. Despite efforts to contain costs, the annual budget for service is almost $1 million per year. The issue was resolved by an agreement, under which SNET accepted responsibility for funding this service as part of its franchise obligation, in return for the ability to increase local rates to raise the additional money. After a public hearing on the agreement, the Department of Public Utility Control approved a 5 cent increase in SNET's local rates to provide the necessary funding.

Based on our experience in Connecticut, we believe that it is possible to provide for a nationally available message relay service. In applying our experience to the national scene, we have the following observations.

One, policy direction is necessary. Despite our national commitment to universal service, millions of Americans are not able to use the telephone to communicate unless the person they are calling has specialized equipment.

Message relay service provides the bridge that makes communication possible. Federal policy should support nationally available message relay service.

Two, someone needs to be in charge of implementation. We believe that the FCC should be given flexible authority to implement this policy. There are difficult issues that must be resolved if a cost efficient and readily accessible means of providing the service is to be developed. We believe that the FCC should have the authority and flexibility to address these.

Three, all of the players need to be involved. The States should be given a meaningful role in the planning and implementation of this service. Specific provision for their participation should be made. The FCC joint board mechanism would be one means to accomplish this.

Four, existing systems must be taken into consideration. Integration of existing systems into the national scheme should be provided for, and States which have provided for intrastate message relay systems, should be permitted to retain jurisdiction.

And, five, the funding of the service is a critical issue, and probably the most difficult. Carriers must be permitted to recover the costs incurred to provide message relay service. To assure quality service, care must be taken to provide for adequate initial funding, and frequent review to accommodate growth and upgrade requirements.

In conclusion, I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to testify today in support of congressional action to make message relay services available nationally. We are supportive of Title IV of S.933 as a basis for action in the House, and look forward to a continuing partnership with Congress and the FCC in our efforts to ensure that the full benefits of telecommunications services are available to all Americans. Thank you.

[The prepared statement of Ms. Hershman follows:)

STATEMENT OF LINDA D. HERSHMAN Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, I am Linda D. Hershman, General Manager, Government Relations of the Southern New England

Telephone Company (SNET). With me is Attorney Margaret F. Girard, also of SNET who has been directly involved in establishing an agreement providing for the funding of message relay service in Connecticut. We are here to testify on behalf of the United States Telephone Association, (USTA) and the Southern New England Telephone Company. USTA is the primary trade association of the local exchange carrier industry, representing over 1,100 members which provide in excess of 98 percent of this country's local telephone access lines. SNET is a local exchange carrier, providing service to virtually all of the State of Connecticut. I am pleased to testify in support of congressional action to further the goal of universal service, mandated in the Communications Act of 1934, by providing for a nationally available message relay service for the speech and hearing impaired.

The legislation currently before this subcommittee is Title V of H.R. 2273, The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1989. However, the compromise recently passed by the Senate (Title IV of S.B. 933), resolves many of the numerous concerns raised with H.R. 2273 as currently drafted. We would recommend, therefore, that section V of the House bill be amended to incorporate in full the Senate compromise and that it be used as the basis for further action and debate in the House.

As requested by Chairman Markey, our testimony will address four specific issues that are critical to the implementation of a nationwide message relay service, namely: (1) the need for an interstate relay system, (2) the technical feasibility of implementing an interstate relay system, 93) what would be the best funding mechanism, and (4) which entity, or entities would be best suited to implement and over

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