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Mr. JORDAN. I am concerned when we talk about costs that the burden of the costs not be applied directly to just the hearing and speech impaired, and that is my concern.
Mr. MARKEY. No, that is exactly the point that we are dealing with.
Ms. SCHWARTZ. I surely concur with that.
Mr. MARKEY. That is exactly the point that we are getting to and trying to nail down here, you know. Mr. Tutton stated that it ought to be shared by all of the users, and that would basically put it down to 2 cents per month. Mr. TUTTON. Two to three, yes.
Mr. MARKEY. A 2 to 3 cents per month burden for all telephone users across the country, and for the interstate market, I guess, we have some agreement that ought to be a way that ought to be levied.
Now, as we move to the intrastate marketplace, the
Mr. TUTTON. I don't know if there is an agreement. I heard Commissioner Schwartz suggest that the interchange carrier should bear that burden, as contrasted to some other approach, and that is not what I was suggesting.
I was suggesting that be spread across the American public, or all the lines in America, which is the arithmetic that I used to come up with the 2 to 3 cents. That's different than having the inter exchange carriers in the United States bear that cost, and I just wanted to point that out.
Mr. MARKEY. Theoretically, though, the distinction that you are making is a fine one, and I just want to understand it.
Mr. TUTTON. OK.
Mr. MARKEY. All American telephone users are also part of this long distance network. Mr. TUTTON. That is correct.
Mr. MARKEY. So that they are all theoretically part of the universe that would then be assessed this 2 to 3 cents levy?
Mr. TUTTON. Right.
Mr. MARKEY. But where would that break then, and how Ms. Schwartz would
Mr. TUTTON. Maybe I had better ask her, but I am under the impression that the suggestion was that the inter exchange carriers, through their costs, could recover this through a rate somehow, and I disagree with that premise.
And that the inter exchange carriers are, as you well know, in a very competitive marketplace, and do not have the luxury of being able to raise prices to pass on costs that are not related to the services that they provide, as contrasted to a little different approach. That is my point.
Mr. MARKEY. So--and just so we have this correct, what you want is to set aside, like a special item, or a special line item; is that what you mean?
Mr. TUTTON. Well, as far as setting aside, I am not trying to debate that issue at all. The point is that it needs to be collected somehow through everybody, as everybody derives the benefit of it.
Some sort of a fund established that people compete and is administered by some central group, which is the other part of my suggestion, and that various providers compete to use those funds to provide the service for all of the people, and the price that the speech and hearing-impaired community pays is the price of the call, or slightly less, but this fund pays for the additional costs in handling the call, which is
Mr. MARKEY. Well, let me then walk through what AT&T does right now in Alabama, and in California, and in New York, and the relay systems which you have set up there. How are those systems funded?
Mr. TUTTON. Well, those systems are funded essentially by a fee that is collected one way or the other from either-either through a monthly charge, or the local exchange carrier recovers the money through
Mr. MARKEY. Well, let me understand.
Mr. TUTTON. All of the public in those States; and then a fund is established, that the carriers were asked to bid to provide service in that State. The user of the service pays a price for the actual call itself, which is not unlike anybody else that would pay for a telephone call.
And the carrier receives back through the fund, as well as from the actual user of the service, the moneys to cover their costs for providing the service.
Mr. MARKEY. And what system would you
Ms. SCHWARTZ. Mr. Chairman, I think that the part of Mr. Tutton's argument is that he doesn't wish to see the competitive services of the interstate provider burdened with the extra costs of this relay service, and that he would like to have the costs imposed on the rate payers who are paying for noncompetitive services, which by definition is going to mean the intrastate local exchange carrier services.
And his goal, I believe, is to do it through a surcharge on the subscriber line charge, which I think you will recall engendered when slick was under debate, quite a lot of dissention between the FCC and the States.
Mr. MARKEY. Dr. Jordan, just one thing I would like to know is the difference between slick and slew in this whole debate.
If you never learn anything about this you will be a better man.
Ms. SCHWARTZ. Amen. That is true, and that is why I say about not seeing the beneficiaries of the service held hostage to that kind of a debate. The question, I think, can be turned around and I know that we don't want to do this, to decide this today, but I think that this issue is one of the many issues that are going to come before this committee, and all of this involved in this new environment, about what this universal service really is.
And if the notion is that any extension of universal service, or any maintenance of universal service in this technological evolution is to be all passed along to the intrastate jurisdiction, eventually we will be in trouble.
That does not necessarily preclude the possibility of an agree ment to agree on this, but either it should be recovered in the prices charged by the interstate services, or in an extension of the FCC's universal service fund, off the Lifeline Customer's concept. But it should not be mandated to be imposed on the intra rate subscribers.
ne or the other.
Mr. MARKEY. Ms. Hershman. Could you enlighten us on Connecticut's experience?
Ms. HERSHMAN. Well, as I mentioned, Mr. Chairman, in Connecticut we are charging customers now 5 cents a month, and that is funding both intrastate and interstate, because we have no choice, and we felt that it was so important to make the service available.
However, I think our preference would be to separate the jurisdictions so that our local exchange customers are paying for the local piece, and there is an interstate assessment or cost on the interstate.
Mr. MARKEY. Again, let's get some numbers. Mr. Tutton, how do you think that this will break down, in terms of local calls versus long distance calls, and interstate versus intrastate. What do you think the numbers are?
Ms. SCHWARTZ. If I may, Mr. Chairman. In Connecticut right now we find that approximately 10 percent of our calls are interstate.
Mr. MARKEY. Interstate.
Mr. MARKEY. I just want to narrow it down. So, then we don't have any problem then with regard to how intrastate will be levied; is that correct?
Ms. STRAUSS. As long as there is no mandate for recovery of slick, and each State may recover it in the way that each State chooses, and that is no problem at all.
Mr. MARKEY. But when we move to the interstate, we have an issue that
Ms. HERSHMAN. Well, I think we would feel comfortable if it were feared that this cost could be recovered on an interstate basis, and reviewed periodically as there is the need to update the equipment. I do want to say that about interstate.
Mr. MARKEY. Well, I think that is probably—that this particular discussion now is being narrowed down, and is probably something that should be discussed in a back room here.
But I am very confident that we will be able to resolve it, and come up with a resolution. Can I ask you, Mr. Tutton, what kind of a program do you have in place to train operators so that they can handle the calls?
Mr. TUTTON. In the locations where we have set up the dualparty relay service, we have discovered through working with people in the hearing and speech-impaired communities, that there is a significant amount of sensitivity training, and other things to be able to understand this very special need culture that many people don't even realize exists.
So, there is a training program for the people who will be the attendants for the dual-party relay system, to help them understand the needs and the sensitivities of the situation, as well as the imperatives of privacy, and respect for the individuals who are communicating.
That they are really performing a transparent translation service, and we go to great pains to make sure that the sensitivity, the speed and the quality of the service that they provide are covered in the training, as well as the requirement for total privacy.
This is the only service that I am aware of where the carrier, and in this case AT&T, is involved in the actual communication itself, and an individual hears that, and so the privacy issues are utmost of importance in our mind.
Mr. MARKEY. Do we need some type of minimal standards that should be established for the carrier because of the special sensitivity of the responsibility that the operators are going to be performing?
Mr. TUTTON. I would prefer if I could think about that a little further. From what we have found so far, the things in the Communications Act, and the other kinds of things that govern our be havior and our responsibilities to the American public are seemingly working very, very well.
But I would like to think about that a little bit, and write you a letter that contains our thoughts if that would be acceptable to you.
Mr. MARKEY. All right. That would be very helpful. Dr. Jordan.
Mr. JORDAN. May I speak briefly to that, to about his concerns about sensitivity, and I just want to raise the point that it is very important that members of the community being served be involved in the training programs that we are talking about.
In order to ensure that sensitivity, you have to have the people who will be served provide the training.
Mr. MARKEY. Ms. Strauss, do you have any guidance you can give us?
Ms. STRAUSS. Sure. I would just like to add that as you are probably aware of, American sign language has its own grammatical structure, and syntax, and grammar. It is imperative that operators have minimal training in interpreting calls that come in, in ASL American Sign Language to English.
So, we do believe that there is some minimal training involved, and also, there should be minimum standards for typing, and grammar. If an individual types with one finger, a call would be very burdensome.
Mr. MARKEY. So, you do believe that some type of special catego ry has to be set up if someone is going to be given this type of job in the telephone system?
Ms. STRAUSS. We do, yes.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Tutton, your statement also recommends a centrally implemented and administered nationwide relay service contractor that would be tentatively awarded by the FCC.
Would you specifically recommend that the National Exchange Carriers Association, or an NECA type entity as the FCC recommended in its July 27 proposal for an interstate relay service, and do other carriers support your centralized proposal?
Mr. TUTTON. I am not sure that I would want to comment for the other carriers, since sometimes we do disagree on a few items, but I think conceptually, yes.
First, I am not so sure that I would be so bold to say there ought to be one single nationwide provider. I would like that to be us, obviously, but the notion of, yes, a central administrative agency is most appropriate.
And NECA-I think NECA Life would be a better term, because the composition of NECA, I think, needs to be supplemented a bit to get the appropriate stakeholders represented in the central group to be able to provide the kinds of leadership that the central group ought to have, but that is the notion.
Mr. MARKEY. Commissioner Schwartz.
Ms. SCHWARTZ. I think that is a possibility, Mr. Chairman. I don't think there is clarity at this point as to what the model would be, and of course some of the funding questions will depend on what type of model there is. In Connecticut, we use a nonprofit corporation.
Mr. MARKEY. We will ask you for a recommendation before we pass it on the Hill. Commissioner Schwartz, maybe you could give us some guidance on how you feel it should be constructed?
Ms. SCHWARTZ. I always think that competitive bidding is a good idea, except in the situation where one potential bidder has clearly a lead track on both the technology and the administrative experience.
Although I would not want to speak against opening it up to a bid, and I think that should be something which the legislation leaves in the hands of the FCC. I wouldn't be surprised if the winning bidder would turn out to be that organization that has the experience.
NECA doesn't strike me as the type of organization that has the expertise to be the central brain, and that has the technological and administrative experience for this system, and be the technological clearing house of the system.
So, at this time I wouldn't want to be on record as saying that I think that NECA is a proper organization to be that central brain.
Mr. MARKEY. Using a relay system, and being communications impaired, clearly leads to much longer telephone calls for the person who is trying to communicate. What is the billing rate for someone who is using such a system? Almost by definition, the call is going to be at a minimum twice as it would be for someone who is not communications impaired.
Ms: SCHWARTZ. Yes, that is absolutely right, Mr. Chairman. I don't have the actual rate with me, although I will be happy to provide it to the committee, but that is the reason why we said that it should be left to the States to determine whether they want to discount the rates for TDD users.
The question of whether the Congress would want to mandate that the rates for TDD users interstate also be discounted is one which I deliberately avoided, because I think that is a very thorny issue, but
Mr. MARKEY. And as you can imagine, we would not want to pass a law and then have the majority of the States then construct a system that discourages its use, and have to continue to revisit this issue.
We would like to deal with it once and for all, and be fairly confident that even if we didn't put in the specific way in which it could