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February 17, 2000

Separate Statement of
Commissioner Gloria Tristani

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

I applaud today's decision, which is another significant step towards ensuring that all Americans have meaningful access to telecommunications services. Without quality Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS), the millions of Americans with hearing and speech disabilities would be left on the sidelines, unable to access the telecommunications services and equipment that are so central to the ability to communicate and to participate in today's information-driven society.

The Commission has benefited from seven years of experience since TRS became available on a uniform, nationwide basis. By amending the rules governing the delivery of TRS, we expand the kinds of relay services available to consumers to keep pace with rapid technological change in the telecommunications industry. And to keep pace with the rapid demographic change in this country, we recognize that non-English language relay services are "telecommunications relay services" as defined by the Act, which can be reimbursed from relay funds. Joining the 18 states that make intrastate and interstate Spanish relay services available to date, we require interstate common carriers to provide interstate Spanish relay service within one year.

Other amendments adopted today will improve the quality of TRS services, ensuring that those with hearing and speech disabilities are able to communicate by wire in a manner "functionally equivalent" to those without such disabilities, as required by the law. I am confident that these rule changes will substantially improve the quality of life for all Americans with hearing and speech disabilities. But we must remain vigilant. As the issues raised in the Notice reflect, steady technological and societal changes compel us to reexamine regularly our decisions regarding what services and performance standards are necessary to ensure that TRS is functionally equivalent to voice telephone service. I look forward to a continuing dialogue on these issues.