Companies Fined for Failing to Accept 911 Calls from Hearing Impaired

Three companies will pay a combined total final of $1.4 million for their inability to handle 911 emergency calls initiated by hearing-impaired customers.

Hearing-impaired individuals are able to communicate by phone through the use of a telephone relay service (TRS) called Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS). This feature enables callers to simultaneously listen while reading captions of what is being said on their IP-enabled device. FCC rules requires telecom service providers to accept and handle 911 emergency calls initiated via IP CTS applications.

According to a press release issued in September 2015 by the FCC, the companies, Hamilton Relay, InnoCaption and Sprint Corporation, were unable to relay 911 calls initiated using IP CTS applications for periods of up to 10 months. Further, the companies reportedly only learned of the problem as a result of test calls made during a 2014 FCC investigation.

As part of their settlement with the FCC, the companies have admitted that their failure to provide required services for hearing-impaired individuals violated FCC rules. In addition to the financial penalties, the companies have also agreed to implement compliance plans intended to help prevent future such service failures, and to waive reimbursement claims from the FCC’s TRS fund during the period when 911 emergency service connections were not available.

Photo by Martin Cathrae

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