PhotoSprint and two other companies will pay $1.4 million for failing to properly handle 9-1-1 calls placed by hard-of-hearing callers, the Federal Communications Commission said today.

The FCC said that for periods ranging from five weeks to ten months, Sprint, Hamilton Relay, and InnoCaption were unable to handle the calls and were unaware of it until the FCC investigation.

“All Americans must be able to reach 911 in an emergency,” said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau.  "Today's settlements reaffirm our commitment to ensure that the hard of hearing community has essential 911 service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Not only are we fining these companies for failing to provide this vital services, but we are assuring that they provide it going forward.”

Relay service

Individuals who can use their own voice but have difficulty hearing utilize a Telephone Relay Service (TRS) called Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) to engage in a telephone conversation using an Internet Protocol-enabled device that allows callers to simultaneously listen while reading captions of what the other party is saying. 

Companies that provide IP CTS do not charge consumers for the service, but are instead eligible to receive compensation from the federally-mandated TRS Fund as long as they have complied with the FCC’s TRS Rules and orders.  

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau discovered, through test calls made in 2014, that the companies were not able to accept and handle 911 emergency calls made using IP CTS applications, as required by Commission rules governing TRS. 

The Bureau also found that the companies submitted inaccurate requests to the TRS Fund administrator for compensation provided to users of IP CTS applications during the period the companies were not in compliance with the emergency call handling rules.  

As part of the settlement, the companies have agreed to take actions to prevent a recurrence of the problem.

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