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February 17, 2000

Separate Statement of
Commissioner Susan Ness

Re: Telecommunications Relay Services and Speech-to-Speech Services for Individuals with Hearing and Speech Disabilities (CC Docket No. 98-67)

We are in the midst of a telecommunications revolution that is reshaping our economy and society. In this day and age, access to telecommunications services becomes even more essential. Today's order is an important step to help ensure access to quality telecommunications services not only for the millions of Americans with hearing and speech disabilities, but also for people without disabilities who communicate with these citizens.

I write separately to voice my strong support for creation of a disabilities advisory committee that would include TRS users, TRS providers, carriers, manufacturers, state and local governments, and other interested parties. The Commission benefits greatly from the expertise of committees established to advise us on such specialized issues as numbering, public safety, technological innovations, and issues of concern to state and local governments.

I believe the Commission would also gain tremendously from the input of a committee of experts that could advise us on technological advances and the impact of such technologies on services for those with disabilities. Moreover, an advisory committee could serve as a clearinghouse for relay concerns and could provide an ongoing dialogue to resolve issues before regulatory action becomes necessary.

Congress recognized the importance of an advisory committee over a decade ago when it enacted requirements for telecommunications relay services as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Senate Committee Report states:

Given the unique and specialized needs of the population that will be utilizing telecommunications relay services, the FCC should pay particular attention to input from representatives of the hearing and speech impaired community. It is recommended that this input be obtained in a formal manner such as through an advisory committee that would represent not only telecommunications relay service consumers but also carriers and other interested parties.(1)

I urge the Commission to move forward as expeditiously as possible to establish a disabilities advisory committee.

1    S. Rep. No. 116, 101st Cong., 1st Sess. (1989).